Bridging the Gap Between the Veterans Administration and County Governments
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that more than 47,000 veterans are homeless at any given time. In addition to the complex socio-economic factors that afflict other homeless communities, many veterans also struggle with post-traumatic stress and substance abuse related to their military service. This confluence of factors can make finding and keeping housing difficult.
HUD and the Veterans Administration (VA) co-manage a supportive housing program (HUD-VASH) designed to help veterans identify housing and to maintain that housing for the long-term. Unfortunately, the HUD-VASH program does not consistently collaborate with local social service agencies to provide the coordinated care that many veterans need.
A long-standing client—a large, urban county—asked Prime Policy Group for help persuading the VA to work more closely with the local social service agencies to better the needs of homeless veterans.
Working with the client, Prime Policy engaged the VA directly before deciding that an appropriations strategy would most effectively persuade the VA nationally and within the County to improve their working relationships with local agencies. We briefed the County’s congressional delegation regarding the concerns the County had with the HUD-VASH program and we discussed the need for report language addressing the matter in the annual Military Construction-VA appropriations bill. In concert with the Congressional delegation and the County, we developed appropriations report language encouraging “the VA to more creatively and concertedly work with local social service agencies to ensure that HUD-VASH voucher recipients are receiving the most comprehensive services available to them.”
The Congressional delegation submitted this language to the Appropriations Committee, and we worked with the delegations and appropriators to ensure the inclusion of this language in the final committee report.
We successfully persuaded appropriators to include the County’s language in the committee report. Upon release the committee report, we worked with the Congressional delegation to ensure that the VA understood the source of the concerns. Almost immediately, the local VA signaled to our client that it had an interest in working more closely together with the County and local social service agencies.
The closer collaboration is already yielding greater coordination of services for homeless veterans and has led to a broader discussion about how the region can better address homelessness among veterans through greater cooperation around new initiatives.