In a joint statement last week, Veterans Administration (VA) Secretary Eric K. Shinseki and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced the expansion of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH).  The program will use local public housing agencies to channel $58.6 million to rental assistance specifically targeted to homeless veterans.  This is the first phase of a program first implemented in 2008 that will ultimately invest $75 million to support the needs of homeless veterans. The current round of funding is designed to provide housing and other assistance to over 7,700 veterans and their families.

HUD expects to announce a second set of grants that will provide another 1,355 rental vouchers and 400 project-based vouchers by the end of the summer.  The current round of funding will supply voucher money to 197 local agencies. Most of the grants are small, covering 15 to 200 recipients and are allocated based on a variety of factors including the numbers of reported homeless veterans in the area and the community's proximity to a local Veteran's Administration Medical Center (VAMC).  Local public housing agencies that administer HUD's Housing Choice voucher Program (HCV) manage HUD-VASH in partnership with 132 participating VAMCs.  The housing agency and medicals centers work together to identify veterans, determine eligibility, and locate suitable housing.  The vouchers are used to rent privately owned housing and provide at least 70 percent of the rental cost.  In addition to rental assistance the vets receive supportive services and case management through the medical centers.

Because of the price disparity among local rental markets, the value of vouchers varies widely from one housing agency to the next.  The program costs range from around $3,100 for each "unit" of service to over $14,000; the average is $7,609.  

In announcing the new funding, Shinseki, a retired four-star general and former Army Chief of Staff said, "Today, the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and HUD are making a critical, long-term investment toward ending homelessness among veterans.  The most effective option to providing veterans permanent shelter is HUD-VA Supportive Housing -- HUD-VASH -- the Nation's largest permanent housing initiative for Veterans. We owe every man and woman, who has worn our Nation's military uniforms, a level of courage and determination that matches theirs as we work to end veteran homelessness. HUD-VASH is immensely important and effective to reaching our goal."

"Though they served and sacrificed so much for our country, too many of our veterans find themselves on the streets and in homeless shelters," said Donovan. "Thankfully, these vouchers will provide a more permanent solution to housing and services these veterans need."

The HUD-VASH program was created by the 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act which allows HUD to waive or specify alternative requirements for any provision of any statute or regulation that HUD administers in connection with the program in order to effectively deliver assistance.  This is the third year HUD is supporting the housing and service needs of homeless veterans across America through HUD-VASH with a total investment of $225 million that will sustain approximately 30,000 rental assistance vouchers.