Oct 25, 2011

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Mythbusters: Using HUD-VASH to house homeless Veterans

Thanks to all of you who joined our October 12 "all hands on deck" call on helping homeless Veterans move into housing! We heard from several national and local partners, with more than 70 friends and community members chiming in. If you missed it, you can access the recording here.

First Vince Kane, Director of the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, explained how the Department of Veterans Affairs is working with 100,000 Homes to end Veterans homelessness.

Christine Marge and Alisa Orduna from the United Way of Greater Los Angeles followed with findings from Los Angeles Housing Placement Boot Camp, which focused on using VASH vouchers to move Veterans into housing. Download their powerpoint here.

Finally, Teresa Pittman from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Kaitlin Nelson from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) joined us to put the most persistent myths about using HUD-VASH to house homeless Veterans to rest. Read their findings below or download the Word document, then get to work making sure no Veteran in your community spends another night on the street!

Busting the Myths – Some Facts About HUD-VASH
Myth #1:  Veterans have to have income.  
Truth:  While there is a cap on how much income a veteran can have, there is not a minimum amount of income.  Any minimum income requirement is locally determined and not a requirement of HUD-VASH.  Zero income is allowable by the program’s operating requirements.  While a Veteran can be housed in HUD-VASH with no income, living long term without resources is difficult; therefore we recommend that case managers and Veterans begin immediately working to obtain income.   
Myth #2:  Veteran must be sober or “ready” for housing. 
Truth:  There are no requirements for veterans to demonstrate they are clean and sober for any length of time or be “ready” for housing for admission to HUD-VASH.  The veteran must agree to participate in case management services tailored to meet the needs of the veteran.  The Veteran will be required to follow the PHA and landlord’s rules, which may have a requirement for no drug or alcohol use, but there is no set period of sobriety to qualify for HUD-VASH. It is not the role of the case manager to “enforce” the PHA/landlord rules, but rather work with the Veteran to understand the consequences of violating tenant rules.  VA case managers are not cops! 
Myth #3:  Veteran cannot have been convicted of crystal meth production or other felony and cannot be mandated to register as a lifetime sex offender.
Truth:  While it is true that a veteran cannot receive HUD-VASH if they are required to register as a lifetime sex offender (the offenses which require registration vary from state to state), that is the ONLY criminal background exclusion.  Securing housing with other criminal offenses creates other housing barriers for Veterans, such as landlords that do criminal background checks and will not rent to those with criminal offenses on their record, but their criminal histories do not exclude the Veterans from participation in the program.
Myth #4:  Veteran must have birth certificate and social security card to complete the identification requirements for the housing application
Truth:  HUD only requires that the veteran submit a valid federal form with the social security number annotated.  Some Housing Authorities accept a VA issued picture ID along with the DD214 (which includes the social security number) as an acceptable form of identification.  
Myth: #5:  Veteran must go through treatment prior to entering HUD-VASH.  
Truth:  Prior treatment completion is NOT a requirement to participate in HUD-VASH.  Veterans must simply be stable enough to participate in HUD-VASH (i.e.: not a threat to self or others.)  The case manager works with the Veteran on housing stability, which will include discussions around barriers to sustaining housing and treatment options available to help address those barriers.  The Veteran drives the case management goals and agrees to the options that he/she feels will help him/her to sustain permanent housing.  Elective participation in groups prior to admission is helpful – but not mandatory - for Veterans who are on the “Interest List.”
Myth 6:  Veterans in transitional housing longer than 90 days are no longer eligible for HUD-VASH.  
Truth:  Although Veterans who are in transitional housing for longer than 90 days are no longer considered “chronically homeless” by the HEARTH Act definition, they are still eligible for VASH if they meet the criteria, that is:  have high vulnerability and need the case management services to successfully sustain permanent housing. Case Managers should begin work toward permanent housing with Veterans who are appropriate for HUD-VASH as soon as possible in their transitional stay, concurrently (rather than sequentially) with other programs.  There are no maximum or minimum thresholds for the number of days before a Veteran may start to work with HUD-VASH. However, the target population of HUD-VASH includes those who are most at risk, vulnerable and in need of HUD-VASH, particularly those who may not “successfully” complete a transitional housing placement. 
Myth 7:  If a Veteran has his voucher revoked they cannot reapply to obtain another HUD-VASH voucher for one year.
Truth:  In HUD-VASH, there is not a rule specifying the time between losing a voucher and reapplication.  Veterans will be reconsidered on a case-by-case basis and the circumstances discussed between the Veteran, case manager and the PHA.  There may be extenuating factors that make immediate reapplication to the program appropriate.
For additional clarification, please reference this link from HUD.