According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, there were 982 homeless veterans in Pennsylvania, per the data collected during the 2018 point-in-time count. Nationwide there was a 5.4 percent decrease in the estimated number of homeless veterans between 2017 and 2018. Adams County Housing Authority (ACHA) is playing a small role in helping homeless veterans. We are honored to participate in the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, which combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for participating veterans at VA medical centers and community-based outreach clinics. In our case we partner with the Lebanon VA. The Adams County Veterans Affairs office has also been instrumental in connecting homeless veterans in our area to the Lebanon VA, allowing the veterans to be qualified for the VASH program.

HUD-VASH targets the chronically homeless veteran who is the most vulnerable and often has severe mental or physical health problems, or substance use disorders, with frequent emergency room visits, multiple treatment attempts, and limited access to other social supports. Other veterans who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness may also participate in the program.

The Lebanon VA determines the veterans’ clinical eligibility for the program before referring the veterans to us. We determine their income eligibility and their rental assistance amount. A VA housing specialist helps the veterans find a suitable apartment or house. Our housing inspector makes sure their new home meets HUD’s standards. Once the veteran has moved in, the VA provides on-going support services. These services are designed to assist veterans in obtaining and sustaining permanent housing. The veterans engage in needed treatment and other supportive services that improve their quality of life and end their cycle of homelessness.

ACHA was awarded nearly $22K in funding by HUD for five VASH vouchers. We are glad to say all five vouchers are being used, allowing formerly homeless veterans to live in safe, decent, and affordable housing.

The HUD-VASH program is a true success story nationwide. HUD has awarded over 97,500 HUD-VASH vouchers to public housing agencies since 2008. VASH vouchers are being used to assist veterans in each of the 50 states, in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. In addition, another $40 million was appropriated by Congress, for approximately 5,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers for fiscal year 2019. ACHA has applied for this additional funding.

If you are a veteran who needs housing assistance call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET.

Stephanie McIlwee is the executive director for Adams County Housing Authority, PA Interfaith Community Programs and Turning Point Interfaith Mission.

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