VA honors staff, organizations for fighting veteran homelessness

homeless vet

A homeless veteran sleeps in a tent, during Stand Down 2007 on July 13, 2007 in San Diego, California. (Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

By Jonathan Kaupanger

The Department of Veterans Affairs is honoring civilian providers and VA employees for working to address veteran homelessness this month.

Three VA organizations are also being honored for their work in two VA homeless programs: Domiciliary Service and Health Care for Homeless Veterans Programs.

“VA’s strong community efforts on veteran homelessness are being supported by the hard work, innovation and dedication of thousands of VA employees are civilian partners,” said Secretary of Veterans’ Affairs David J. Shulkin. “Helping veterans get housing is vital for them, but it also demonstrates clearly to the nation our enduring commitment to those who have served so well.”

The Palo Alto Health Care System is being honored for its Domiciliary Service, located in Menlo Park, California. The area surrounding the Domiciliary has very little affordable housing and low vacancy rates. The housing market is very competitive as the city is right in the middle of the Silicon Valley, where the average tech salary is about $200,000 per year.

The Domiciliary treats homeless or substance-dependent veterans with the goal of returning them to optimal independent living. There are two residential treatment programs at the Menlo Park Domiciliary: Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program, a residential 180-day program and its sister program First Step, which is a residential 90-day substance abuse treatment program.

The homeless outreach team at the Domiciliary visits soup kitchens, detox facilities, shelters, churches and libraries in search of homeless veterans in need of assistance. The VA’s Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program is the VA’s oldest health care program.

Established through legislation passed in the late 1860’s, the purpose was to provide a home for disabled volunteer soldiers of the Civil War. It has evolved into an active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program for veterans.

homeless vet

A homeless person’s grocery cart and chair is shown along Fifth Avenue during the annual Veterans Day parade November 11, 2006 in New York City.(Michael Nagle/Getty Images)

The other program honored is the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program (HCHV) at the Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System in New Orleans, Louisiana and at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center in Albany, New York.

Initially used to contract with providers for community-based residential treatment for homeless veterans, HCHV programs now serve as the hub for housing and other services that provide VA with a way to reach and assist homeless vets by offering them entry to VA care.

Other honorees include VA employees Julie E. Irwin, a Homeless Care line manager at the Veterans Integrated Service network; Michael Wehrer, a supervisor with the Homeless Care Team at Erie VA Medical Center; and Kristen Weese, a program manager with the Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program at the Western New York Health Care System.

The community organizations honored by the VA are the Veterans Northeast Outreach Center in Haverhill, Massachusetts; Family Endeavors in Fayetteville, North Carolina; The Greenville Housing Authority in Greenville, South Carolina; Team AMVETS in Garden Grove, California; Project Community Connections, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia; and Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program in Richmond, Virginia.

“Veterans homelessness is a top priority of ours,” Shulkin said. “We have had a 47 percent reduction in veterans’ homelessness since VA started to focus on this in 2010.

Last year, we saw our biggest decrease in homelessness — a 17 percent decrease. And we continue to find additional ways to get those number of veterans who are homeless down.”

Between 2015 and 2016, Arkansas, Kansas, Montana, New York and West Virginia all recorded a 40 percent decline of veteran homelessness. Since 2010, more than 480,000 veterans and their family members have been placed in housing. Also, 47 communities and three states have ended veteran homelessness as of March of this year.

If you are a homeless veteran, or know one who needs assistance, contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838.

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