Through a partnership with Homeward Bound, the city of Asheville provides support to implement the federal Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant. Homeward Bound was awarded $2.7 million in federal funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs to implement its Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) over the next three years.
SSVF is a rapid rehousing program that provides short-term rental assistance to veterans and their families who are literally homeless in Buncombe County. Homeward Bound will be placing a minimum of 108 households into permanent housing annually, working in collaboration with other community partners with the specific goal of ending homelessness among veterans who are unsheltered and veterans who are chronically homeless by January 2016.
In addition to case managers who work with veterans once housed to ensure they stay housed permanently, this SSVF team has an outreach specialist who connects homeless veterans with housing services and a housing specialist focused on recruiting landlords and property-management companies to partner in ending veteran homelessness in Asheville and Buncombe County.
Asheville-Buncombe Community Christian Ministries also operates a Supportive Services for Veteran Families program in Buncombe County. ABCCM’s program focuses largely on homelessness prevention and will help prevent homelessness for 84 households in this current operating year.
A variety of outreach strategies and tools to engage private landlords and private developers are being utilized by the collaborative partnership that includes the city of Asheville, the VA, Homeward Bound, ABCCM and the Housing Authority of the City of Asheville.
The Asheville Housing Authority has been collaborating with the Charles George VA Medical Center since 2008 to implement the VA Supportive Housing (VASH) program. From 2008 through the end of 2014, those two agencies have housed more than 325 homeless veterans, most of whom met the definition of chronic homelessness. A chronic homeless person is one who has a disabling condition and has been homeless for more than one year, or has experienced four episodes of homelessness in the last three years.
The Asheville Housing Authority administers a rental subsidy to help the veterans rent on the private market, and the VA provides supportive services to help the veterans manage the transition to permanent housing. The success rate has been 87 percent.
Locally, the VASH program has grown from an initial allotment of 50 housing vouchers to 251 at the end of 2014. Just this month, the two agencies were awarded an additional 55 VASH vouchers. The challenge right now, because of the tight rental housing market — particularly for one-bedroom units — is to find vacant apartments to rent. Currently, about 30 veterans have vouchers in hand and are looking for housing, with assistance from the VA. Based on current projections, we can house an additional 90 veterans between now and the end of 2015, if apartments can be located for them.
Readers willing to help a veteran by offering a vacant apartment should contact the Homelessness Program at the Charles George VA Medical Center at 298-7911, ext. 1198. For more information, please contact Christiana Glenn Tugman in the city of Asheville Community Development Division [at] CTugman@ashevillenc.gov.
— Esther Manheimer
Editor’s note: This letter is a response to the question raised in John Penley‘s letter, “What is the City Doing to End Veterans’ Homelessness?” in this issue.