There are about 250 organizations, some working with the VA, some independent, that work to help homeless veterans. The services vary, and provide support, resources and opportunities for homeless veterans. The services can be limited by funds, but often include shelters, food banks, some medical screenings and counseling. For a list of these community-based service providers, see the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans Web site.
There are homeless veterans established by the VA in each state. They work with community organizations to provide services to homeless veterans, and can answer questions and provide referrals to independent veterans.
You can find your state’s homeless veteran coordinator by visiting the VA’s Web site at http://www.va.gov/directory/guide/division.asp?dnum=3, or by calling the VA’s toll-free services line at 1-877-4AID-VET.
The Grant and Per Diem Program
This program provides funding to community-based agencies so they can better provide essential services to homeless veterans. To be eligible, an organization must provide supportive housing to homeless veterans, or must offer services that:
• Help homeless veterans achieve residential stability
• Increase their skill levels and/or income
• Obtain greater self-determination
Such services include, but are not limited to:
• Case management
• Crisis intervention
The VA gives grants to organizations to fund construction, renovation or purchasing a facility to create a homeless veterans shelter. The limit is 65 percent of the cost, and organizations must find other funding for the remaining cost. Grants cannot be used to pay salaries or per diem.
Per diem can be paid to community organizations to help supplement costs of salaries and operations. It is based on the number of homeless veterans receiving services from the agency. If an organization received a grant, it has first priority to per-diem.
The maximum amount of per diem paid to organizations that supply housing is $33.01 per day, per veteran housed. Organizations that provide support services only may receive one-eighth of the daily cost of care, not to exceed the current VA State Home rate for rehabilitation and treatment care, and not to exceed eight hours in any one day.
Applying for the Program
Organizations interested in applying for the VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program should call 877-332-0334 or write to VA Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program, Office of Mental Health Services (116E), VAHQ, 810 Vermont Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20420.
Stand Downs for Homeless Veterans
Stand Downs are veterans helping veterans, and are usually supported by the VA and organized by local veterans groups. The first Stand Down was organized in 1988 in San Diego by Vietnam veterans, and since then the program has helped more than 200,000 homeless veterans and their families. The name comes from a program in the Vietnam War that provided a retreat for troops returning from combat operations. These units would be moved to a secure base camp area, where they could have a warm meal, receive medical care, mail and receive letters, enjoy friends and take care of hygiene in a safe environment.
The Stand Down programs for homeless veterans serves the same purpose. They give them relief from life on the streets. The majority are held in football fields or other large, open areas, but sometimes they are held indoors, and typically last one to three days. During Stand Downs, homeless veterans can simply show up and receive a broad range of services, including food and clothing; medical, legal, and mental health assistance; job counseling and referrals; and companionship and camaraderie. The VA helps support these programs in major US cities. No sign up is required for veterans.
If you are part of a community-based organization and would like to conduct a Stand Down in your area, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans would love to help you get started. You can contact them at National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 3331/2 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Washington, DC 20003-1148; phone 202-546-1969; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web site www.nchv.org.
Veterans Industry: Group Homes
At 162 locations around the United States, the VA operates a Compensated Work Therapy program that allows disadvantaged and homeless veterans to live in group- homes while working for pay. Professional staff provides employment support and services, and the VA has contracts with private companies and government agencies to hold jobs for veterans. The program usually runs about 174 days, and veterans work about 33 hours per week, earning $732 per month. They pay about $186 per month in rent to the group home.
A list of program locations is available on the VA’s Web site at www1.va.gov/vetind/page.cfm?pg=4. Veterans can apply for the program through their VA regional office (see Appendix B).
Drop-in centers are different than homeless shelters, as they don’t provide overnight housing. They give a daytime option for veterans to rest, clean up, do laundry and participate in rehabilitative activities. The centers can also provide referral services to longer-term assistance.
To find the location of your nearest drop-in center, check with your state’s homeless veteran coordinator by visiting the VA’s Web site at www1.va.gov/homeless/page.cfm?pg=21 or by calling the VA’s toll-free services line at 800-827-1000.
Donations of Excess Government Property
Excess government property, like socks, gloves, hats, sleeping bags and many other items, are collected by the VA and distributed to homeless veteran programs across the nation. The program is called the VA Excess Property for Homeless Veterans Initiative. The main distribution center in Lyons, New Jersey, is entirely staffed by former homeless veterans under a Compensated Work Therapy Program.