There have been discussions between several of the larger Grant Per Diem (GPD) nationwide providers, U.S. VETS and Volunteers of America (VOA), along with national partners Community Solutions (CS) and National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) regarding the future of GPD. This discussion draft is a result of those conversations and focuses on how the funding and capacity of providers to serve veterans may evolve over time as communities work to measurably end veteran homelessness.
There is mutual agreement between CS, U.S.VETS, VOA, & NCHV that:
We can and must end veteran homelessness in the US. In fact, 12 US communities participating in Built for Zero have already achieved the Built for Zero functional zero criteria and 82 communities and 3 states have achieved the Federal Benchmarks and Criteria on Ending Veteran Homelessness.
- As a result of the commitment initially made by the Obama administration to ending veteran homelessness, our nation has made incredible progress toward that goal.
- Under the Biden administration, it is possible to get veteran homelessness to zero- where veteran homelessness is rare overall and quickly resolved when a veteran becomes homeless.
- Achieving this goal requires addressing remaining policy constraints across all programs and fully deploying and making optimal use of all existing resources
- We advocate maintaining or increasing the level of funding to end veterans’ homelessness permanently.
One of the critical resources at our disposal is the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program. This program currently funds transitional housing facilities on a per diem basis in the following models: bridge housing, low demand, clinical treatment, hospital to housing, and service-intensive.
- As the actively homeless number of veterans continues to decrease, and program occupancy decreases in certain communities, there may be a need to right size the number of per diem beds in the program based on bed utilization over time. This could result in GPD operators using excess resources now dedicated to GPD transitional housing programs to be repurposed to assist veterans needing assistance with housing through programs and services that:
- Support housing stability
- Create new types of housing options for veterans
- Prevent homelessness and keep veterans out of the homeless response system altogether; and
- Offer GPD operators the flexibility to switch between approved models as needed, with little bureaucracy
- A comprehensive review of all VA homeless resources is needed to balance the different levels of need, including homeless prevention, transitional housing, aftercare, and permanent supportive housing, making sure that adequate supportive services are available within each model.
- GPD transitional housing would operate within this comprehensive system and providers would be allowed the flexibility to direct resources in the most coordinated and cost effective way, providing prevention services where needed, rapidly rehousing veterans and families when possible, creating a system designed to address the causes of homelessness, providing the employment, mental health and case management needs that will stabilize veterans experiencing homelessness and helping them to get into permanent housing as quickly as possible.
- Right-sizing the GPD transitional housing program, as communities’ data show reduced inflow into homelessness among veterans, and providing flexibility, could preserve some degree of transitional shelter capacity to meet this reduced demand for shelter while helping most veterans to exit homelessness and achieve housing stability as quickly as possible by shifting resources for GPD operators to increase Housing First-focused permanent housing and homelessness prevention support.
- VA should regularly examine the funding of GPD programs in a community at, under, or over the amount requested by that community (providers, VA, and the local CoC) to align GPD funding with current data and projected need. To ensure a coordinated and accountable community response to veteran homelessness, this regular examination should be done in coordination with the providers, local VAMC, Continuum of Care (CoC) lead agency, and other homeless response system actors, as opposed to on a direct program-by-program basis, as it happens now. While VA currently advises GPD operators/applicants to coordinate with their local VAMC and CoC as part of the grant application process, further examination and coordination prior to notices of GPD funding opportunities could support right-sizing and repurposing GPD transitional housing funding for operators to focus on permanent housing solutions including shared housing options.
- The examination of current data and any right-sizing should not only include point-in-time counts but also the number of unduplicated veterans experiencing homelessness annually in the community; the number of veterans exiting GPD transitional housing to permanent housing; cost-effectiveness of transitional housing compared to permanent supportive housing; the availability of other supportive services in the community; and the collectively stated needs of veterans currently and formerly experiencing homelessness.
The federal government should provide program flexibility and support to providers currently operating Grant and Per Diem (GPD) programs so they can continue to provide the necessary support to veterans as communities reach an end to veteran homelessness.
- There will always be veterans needing support in the communities where they live. This may range from deep, service intensive support to address mental health or addiction challenges while housed, to less intensive support like case management, career development, and support to connect and deepen relationships and build community with other veterans to improve veterans’ quality of life and to prevent homelessness. As communities employ these strategies to achieve reductions in veteran homelessness, VA should allow the flexibility to GPD operators to shift programming and resources to provide these types of supports.
- Repurposing GPD transitional housing funding for GPD operators to provide permanent housing when the need for transitional housing is reduced or eliminated is one way to do this. Expanding use of the TIP (Transition-in-Place) program should be explored if the TIP programming dollars could be funded to match local housing market costs. Additionally, exploring how to use these resources flexibly to provide permanent housing using a shared housing / roommate structure should be prioritized.
- Repurposing GPD transitional housing funding for GPD operators to provide housing stability and homelessness diversion services is another opportunity to consider.
- Prioritizing high-performing, existing GPD operators for HUD-VASH case management contracting would address a critical shortage of VASH case management services in many communities.
- More regularly, as communities are reducing veteran homelessness, some veteran service providers are struggling to keep their beds filled. VA should make Technical Assistance support available to current GPD operators to adapt their programs and services to focus on addressing veteran homelessness, operate in a more dynamic way, and to convert existing GPD facilities to permanent affordable and supportive housing where possible and appropriate. Further, considering the addition of permanent housing, prevention services, and more robust aftercare as eligible activities under GPD funding, provided a sufficient amount of transitional housing beds can be retained to meet local demand.
VA should reinforce that GPD admissions should be reserved for veterans actively experiencing or at very imminent risk of homelessness and ensure alternate resources such as a domiciliary and/or community care are sufficiently scaled to provide critical health and recovery services to veterans who are not homeless.
- Many GPD programs provide important medical and treatment services, where veterans can live temporarily while they recover. However, veterans who are not actively experiencing homelessness also need the array of services provided in these GPD programs. This use should be allowed transparently to augment the array of clinical supports available to all veterans in a community, yet veterans who are not actively experiencing homelessness at intake should be identified separately. Encouraging separate VA funding streams, including Community Care, to allow GPD Operators to join care networks to run programs for veterans who are not homeless but need treatment services is one way to make this delineation. This would allow for not all GPD beds to be considered as homeless beds.
- Currently, all veterans who access GPD are categorized as homeless by the VA and local CoCs. If there are veterans who are not actively experiencing homelessness being admitted to GPD, this can inflate the number of homeless veterans unnecessarily and does not accurately reflect the need for housing specific programs and services. Ensuring veterans admitted into homeless programs are actively experiencing homelessness should be strictly enforced to accurately reflect the need for transitional and permanent housing.