Preventing Homelessness Among Veterans
The Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration (VHPD), funded in 2009, is a collaborative effort of the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Affairs (VA), and Labor (DOL) that provides homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing assistance to veterans and their families, making it the first federal program to offer such assistance. The VHPD is a 3-year, $15 million demonstration research project, slated to end in January 2014, that targets veterans of post-9/11 conflicts, women veterans, and veterans with families, who are either at risk of homelessness, or are experiencing short-term homelessness (fewer than 90 days), and who lack the resources to obtain housing or remain in existing housing.
The recently released Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration Evaluation: Interim Report describes VHPD’s implementation and the characteristics of clients served during the program’s first year. The interim report establishes the foundation for the outcomes analysis that will be presented in the final report, scheduled to be available in early 2015. The VHPD has five sites; each site is associated with a nearby military base and a Veterans Affairs Medical Center and programs are administered through Continuum of Care organizations (or CoC-designated grantees) in these locations. The sites are in Utica, New York; Tampa Bay, Florida; Tacoma, Washington; San Diego, California; and Austin, Texas.
During the first year of the VHPD implementation, across the 5 sites, 1,366 individuals (composed of 586 veterans and their families in 574 households) have received assistance; of these, 76 percent of adults were unemployed and 38 percent reported having no income. Eighty-six percent of those served faced an imminent risk of homelessness or were otherwise unstably housed; the remaining 14 percent were homeless before entering the program.
VHPD has also successfully reached veterans returning from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan - 42 percent of VHPD clients served in the post-9/11 era. Furthermore, 26 percent of the veterans served are women, significantly higher than the percentage of women in the total veteran population (approximately 8%). Of the 950 individuals who entered and exited the program in its first year, 77 percent were stably housed, 6.5 percent were at imminent risk of losing housing or unstably housed, and only 1 percent were homeless. Information for the remaining 15 percent was not yet available at publication.
Along with describing the population being reached and the services used, the interim report also examines the challenges of implementing and administering VHPD. The report recommends improvements in data standardization and tracking across the five sites, as well as improved collaboration among local HUD, VA, and DOL service providers. Researchers also note the challenge of targeting people who are both truly in need and meet requirements for assistance, and also capable of sustaining housing on their own after a relatively short period of assistance.
Final Report and Next Steps
The interim evaluation report is part of the larger research effort on VHPD, which will allow researchers and policymakers to better understand the effectiveness of VHPD services and the unique challenges facing veterans. The final evaluation will compare outcomes across three groups: those veterans who participated in VHPD; a comparison group of veterans who would have qualified for, but did not receive, VHPD services; and a comparison group of nonveterans who participated in the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program. The final evaluation report of the VHPD will address two key policy questions: Can homelessness prevention be feasible and effective? Are specially adapted programs needed to adequately address veterans’ needs for homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing services?