VA Promotes Vision for Grant and Per Diem Program

On March 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continued its bold efforts to ensure that housing resources in each community are best-suited for making homelessness among Veterans rare, brief, and non-recurring. This progress came in the form of an open letter issued by Deputy Secretary Sloan D. Gibson to the grantees of VA’s Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program. The letter pushes forward the vision of refining the role of transitional housing programs such as GPD so that these programs are best aligned with Housing First approaches.

Evidence and data show the importance of strategically aligning housing resources in such a manner as to create a crisis response system that quickly resolves an individual’s or family’s homelessness by providing the appropriate permanent housing option along with the necessary supports. Achieving such alignment challenges the provider community at all levels to develop new approaches and refine existing programs that are cost effective and in-line with proven best practices.

The open letter lays out a refined vision of the GPD program that lowers barriers to entry, reduces lengths of stay, and improves exits to permanent housing, thus strengthening GPD programs to better serve homeless Veterans by making their housing crisis a brief and non-reoccurring experience. This refined vision of GPD also focuses on three (3) types of transitional housing models:

  • Bridge Housing- emphasizing short lengths of stays and rapid connections to permanent housing
  • Service-intensive Transitional Housing- transitional housing not being used as Bridge Housing, but in which Veterans are actively working, with the help of supportive services to move into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
  • Transition in Place Housing- a housing model that provides Veterans with time-limited transitional housing assistance with the lease converting over to the Veteran after a short period of assistance.

It is imperative that local communities have in place homeless crisis response systems that are built upon evidence-based practices, an appropriate mix of housing resources, client choice, and linkages to mainstream resources. These elements are critical to achieving the goals of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. This vision for GPD will strengthen community systems to end homelessness among Veterans now and meet future needs.

While steering a ship  in a new direction always takes time, the incremental movements can create meaningful waves whose effects ripple throughout the system. This open letter speaks to the willingness of federal agencies to collaborate and take the necessary steps forward within their respective agencies to meet the goals of Opening Doors and end homelessness in America. Having worked in the field of homelessness for over 15 years at the provider, advocacy, local government, and federal levels, I know that this guidance from VA is an important step forward in making this refined vision of GPD a reality.

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