The drive to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 is underway across the country. The following are five steps your community can take to ensure that you are part of the January 2016 celebrations announcing an end to veteran homelessness. It is important to note that these five steps are part of a continual process – once a veteran is housed, the process begins again with the next veteran. These steps are not necessarily prescriptive, but are meant to guide your community efforts; they represent the general steps successful communities have taken to get veterans into housing quickly and efficiently. Use these steps to get the necessary parties in your community working together and on the path to ending veteran homelessness and ensuring all veterans in your community stay stably housed.
- Identify all homeless veterans in your community and create a shareable master list
Creating a master list of veterans known to be homeless, and continuously updating this list, ensures that all providers and partners are on the same page and have a clear set of people that need housing. A coordinated assessment system is a good way to track this information. You and your partners should also work to ensure you are doing targeted outreach to veterans not already in your system for their inclusion on your list. The creation of such a list will also aid communication between the local VA and Continuum of Care (CoC) and aid in the identification of veterans that may be ineligible for VA services. The purpose of having a master list is to ensure that all partners, including the CoC and VA, can quickly find and house all homeless veterans as soon as a housing opportunity becomes available.
- Identify all available housing stock, including currently existing and potential stock
Work with landlords in your community and the local Public Housing Authority to identify existing and potential housing stock and resources (vouchers, tax credits, units for rapid re-housing, etc.) for veterans. Creating strong working relationships with your community’s landlords will help to ensure units are continuously available in order to quickly move the veterans into housing, particularly since most homeless veterans in your community will be housed through rapid re-housing. Securing a diversity of units will help service providers match veterans to the housing opportunity that best meets their needs.
- Set a clear numerical goal and timeline for getting veterans housed and regularly track progress
You should be constantly working with your partners to assess and evaluate your efforts and assign resources and responsibilities as needed. A clear goal that states the number of veterans you plan on housing in a specified time frame will help to hold partners accountable; strategically allocate available resources and highlight any gaps; and ensure all stakeholders understand their responsibilities in the process. Progress toward this should be measured and reported to stakeholders and the community as often as possible.
- Identify the needed supportive services and resources for veterans
In order to ensure the veterans stay successfully housed, they will need other supports such as employment training; case management; substance abuse and mental health treatment; help connecting to their own support networks in the community and community resources; and income assistance. It is important for you and your partners to have a clear understanding of the resources available in your community for veterans. You should be aware of and develop a working relationship with any other veteran support systems in your community, mainstream resources for which the veteran may be eligible, and other homeless resources available to them.
- House the veterans!
Once you have done the steps above, you can now finish the job and get the veteran into housing with the supportive services appropriate for him or her. You should be doing a regular evaluation of your processes to ensure that you are housing veterans as quickly and efficiently as possible. Make sure that your efforts to house veterans are matched with established community-wide goals and timeline and adjust your efforts accordingly. You should be monitoring your housed veterans to ensure they remain stably housed with the necessary support services.