Veterans’ Housing First Program
By Hannah Zollman, Pathway to Housing DC
Since placing its first client into permanent supportive housing nearly a decade ago, Pathways to Housing DC (Pathways DC) has successfully ended chronic homelessness for more than 500 individuals with serious psychiatric and physical disabilities in Washington, DC. We have accomplished this mission by providing each individual with immediate access to an apartment of their own, followed by intensive and client-directed wraparound support services. Our research and experience demonstrates that the Housing First model, removed from judgment and pre-conditions, is the most effective approach in ending homelessness for individuals with complex needs.
Given our incredible success, Pathways DC was chosen by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) as one of fourteen sites across the country to implement a pilot project to end chronic homelessness and support recovery for 50 Veterans using HUD-VASH vouchers and Housing First. Pathways intentionally sought out veterans who were disengaged from the VA and those with the most complex mental health, physical health and addiction challenges. In addition to referrals from the VA homeless services team, Pathways engaged community partners such as the street outreach teams, meal programs, and shelters to identify those veterans most in need of this Housing First intervention.
By combining the power of public and private funding with the expertise of programs such as Pathways DC, we have provided a tangible, permanent solution to one of the greatest social shortcomings of our time. HUD VASH vouchers covered the majority of apartment rents, while supportive services were funded by the VA and Medicaid. There remained a sizable budgetary shortfall on other necessities, from furniture and household items to security deposits and application fees that were essential to successfully end homelessness and support recovery for these Veterans. Without the generous support from our community partners and private philanthropy, the 50 Veterans would have moved into bare, empty apartments without any of the necessities truly required to turn supportive housing into a comfortable home.
Significant funding from the William S. Abell Foundation was used not only to cover initial start-up costs for the first ten Veterans moving off of the streets, but also to leverage additional support from the community and help close the funding gap. Below are examples of this support:
- Private Funders: In addition to support from the William S. Abell Foundation, other private funders included Fannie Mae, PNC Bank, DC Baptist Convention and Unity Church of Washington, DC.
- Community Partners: Three non-profit organizations (Miriam’s Kitchen, the Downtown Business Improvement District, and Bethesda Cares) provided funds and in-kind donations to support the veterans they referred to this project. This partnership not only improved outcomes for the referring partners who do not have the resources available to provide housing for the individuals they serve, but allowed for a smooth and warm transfer for their referrals and increased the visibility of the goal to end veteran homelessness.
- Continuum of Care: Our local Continuum of Care managed by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness set aside security deposits for each of the 50 HUD VASH vouchers using funds from a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the VA.
We can end Veteran homelessness in Washington, D.C. and we can do it by 2015. With the generous support of our community, we have been able to provide all 50 Veterans moving from the streets and into housing for the first time with the resources necessary to secure their new home (including security deposits, application and hold fees, etc.) as well as furniture and household items to help them remain in housing and on the path to recovery.