The HUD-VASH program is a joint program of the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA). Under this joint Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, homeless veterans receive a Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher from HUD that is coupled with case management and clinical services provided by VA at its medical centers and in the community. Eligible individuals and veterans are identified by VA. Evaluation of the HUD-VASH program has found that participants increase days housed, employment, income, and connections with family and friends. Program recipients have also been found to decrease their use of alcohol and the number of days that they spend homeless or in institutions.
Nearly 40,000 veterans are homeless on a given night, according to the most recent data from HUD. At the most recent point-in-time count in January 2016, 33 percent of homeless veterans were unsheltered. Many of the veterans experiencing homelessness are chronically homeless, meaning that they have been on the streets for a long period of time or have had multiple homeless episodes.
Typically, veterans experiencing chronic homelessness have severe physical or mental disabilities, or have chronic substance abuse problems. Individuals who experience chronic homelessness typically require permanent supportive housing – housing linked with intensive supports such as those provided by the HUD-VASH program – to help them maintain housing stability. A number of studies have demonstrated that permanent supportive housing is a cost-effective approach that helps people who have intensive needs maintain stable housing, and some evidence shows that once back in housing they are likely to access health and substance abuse treatment. Since 2008, over 85,000 HUD-VASH vouchers have been awarded to communities to place veterans into permanent supportive housing.
In March of 2016, HUD awarded 500 vouchers to 26 tribes or tribally designated housing entities (TDHE) under its new tribal HUD-VASH demonstration program. This new partnership will offer permanent housing and supportive services to homeless or at-risk veterans living on or near a reservation or tribal area.
Congress should continue to make permanent housing stability for veterans a top priority by ensuring sufficient availability of HUD-VASH and tribal HUD-VASH vouchers for veterans.