Rocky Mountain Human Services’ Homes for All Veterans Program: Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness

 

Contributed by RMHS Communications

“There is no place in the [U.S.] where someone working full time at the federal minimum wage can afford a modest one bedroom apartment, and the majority of renting families who live below the poverty line spend at least half of their income on housing costs. As a result, millions of families experience housing insecurity, and teeter on the brink of homelessness, one financial challenge or a lost job away from living on the street or shelter.” – Heartland Alliance 2017 Report

Rocky Mountain Human Services’ Homes for All Veterans (HAV) program is funded by the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grant from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) that was founded on the principle that every veteran has a right to safe, permanent housing. Dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, the HAV program provides outreach, case management, and support accessing community and mainstream resources to more than 1,000 veteran households each year who are experiencing literal homelessness or in danger of homelessness throughout the state of Colorado.

RMHS_Logo_(Homes_for_All_Veterans_2017)HAV Program Manager for southern Colorado, Alison Gerbig, shares that “the SSVF program is designed to help our veterans and their families quickly access and obtain safe, stable housing in order to better support them in developing connections and resources in the community to maintain housing.”

In the past, HAV’s priority was to encourage the veterans to focus their time first on solely obtaining housing then focusing on employment and other needed supports. However, the current high rental market in Colorado has caused rental rates to increase and rental requirements to change drastically, shifting the priority to securing employment in conjunction with securing housing. Per monthly data reports by RMHS/HAV, the average time to house a veteran in the program is about 45 days. Heartland Alliance (Schnur, Warland, Young & Maguire, 2017) reports that it “takes the average jobseeker 25 – 27 weeks to obtain employment.” However, veterans who experience homelessness often face additional barriers that can cause them to face even longer periods of unemployment and homelessness. Criminal records, lack of basic skills, and poor job history or gaps of employment can quickly disqualify them from getting a job and/or housing, and often the typical employment setting can be too rigid and overwhelming for someone who spent last night on the streets or in a shelter, or for a veteran dealing with trauma.

Through experience and a person-centered groundwork for support, the dedicated staff of HAV have worked to develop a better understanding of veteran-specific barriers and needs and improve their processes to best support the specific needs of their clients. Today, the team embraces tools from trauma-informed care and utilizes motivational interviewing practices to provide services and support that are sensitive and avoid overwhelming situations or actions.

Part of these efforts include the Veteran Employment and Housing Orientation classes held at HAV’s Veteran Housing Resource Center in Colorado Springs every Monday morning. This class provides access to information and resources designed to address the realities of obtaining housing in Colorado Springs coupled with the increased importance of employment designed to support veterans who are experiencing homelessness.

HAV is grounded in the philosophy of not duplicating resources, therefore cultivates community partnerships to promote success for veterans in the program. They invite partners to speak at orientation classes and utilize services as a way to provide further resources. Pikes Peak Workforce’s Financial Coach speaks about housing income and expense information supporting veterans to start planning their goals and next steps toward housing. The Department of Human Services’ Income Maintenance Tech connects veterans to benefits while they are searching for employment. The Disabled Veteran Outreach Program Specialists at Pikes Peak Workforce Center (PPWFC) act as a resource, offering intensive services for veteran employment. In addition, the team invites employers and landlords to connect veterans with opportunities to meet their individual employment and housing goals.

When a veteran does obtain housing and exits the program, although they may still be considered rent-burdened (paying more than 30-40% of their income toward housing costs), the goal is to support them into a home, teach them about the tools and resources to be able to maintain their home and employment, and to assist them in creating a plan in case their income decreases or they risk returning to homelessness. Supporting the veteran to break down barriers and achieve individual goals, the HAV team and community partners collectively work to end veteran homelessness one home and one job opportunity at a time.

You can find more information about our Homes for All Veterans program on our website, or by participating in monthly Community Advisory Council on Veteran Homelessness meetings. The meetings are open to those who are interested in learning about the community of Colorado Spring’s efforts, successes, and opportunities to end veteran homelessness. Landlords, employers, community partners, and interested citizens are always welcome to come to join us in our efforts to end veteran homelessness:

Community Advisory Council on Veteran Homelessness (CACVH)
Third Friday of each month
9:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.
Veteran Housing Resource Center
17 S. Weber Street
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

References:

Schnur, C., Warland, C., Young, M., & Maguire, T. (2017). Integrating rapid re-housing & employment: Program & policy recommendations for enhancing rapid re-housing. Chicago, IL: Heartland Alliance’s National Initiatives on Poverty & Economic Opportunity.

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