The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program changes lives.
Marine Veteran Gerard McCarthy is no stranger to hard work. After his military service ended, he earned a degree in political science and worked in various fields, including the biotech industry. But living on a fixed income through Social Security after retirement, McCarthy found himself being priced out of his apartment after the landlord increased his rent.
Having no choice but to seek alternative housing, he found a room for rent – a converted garage – from a family looking to make extra money. Still, he found himself struggling to afford the necessities after paying for his rented room in San Mateo, California.
While in line at a local food bank, McCarthy struck up a conversation with another Veteran who gave him the phone number of a case worker for the HUD-VASH program. McCarthy made the call, which dramatically improved his living conditions almost overnight.
Veterans Village provides supportive services
A HUD-VASH social worker helped him get into stable housing at Colma Veterans Village in the San Francisco Bay area. The Veterans Village is a project-based HUD-VASH facility. It provides affordable housing and wraparound supportive services in the same location for Veterans experiencing homelessness.
HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between HUD and VA that combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help Veterans who are homeless and their families find and sustain permanent housing.
Through public housing authorities, HUD provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to Veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and are experiencing homelessness.
VA case managers may connect these Veterans with support services, such as health care, mental health treatment and substance use counseling to help them in their recovery process and with their ability to maintain housing in the community.
Medical team is on site
Project-based HUD-VASH vouchers, such as those used at the Colma Veterans Village, are distinguished from tenant-based vouchers. Project-based vouchers are attached to the housing unit rather than assigned to the tenant. If a Veteran moves, the housing unit is available for another Veteran exiting homelessness.
The Colma Veterans Village model is part of a collaboration between HUD-VASH and VA’s Office of Geriatrics and Extended Care (GEC). It expands resources for older Veterans. It also provides comprehensive care in-house to nearly 60 Veterans, 33 of whom are over 65 years of age.
The services offered include medical care, housekeeping, transportation, financial planning support, food preparation and more.
“One of the big benefits of Colma Veterans Village is that the medical team is on-site,” explained Clare Rudolph, who is McCarthy’s HUD-VASH social worker. “Instead of having to travel up to the medical center every time you need to see a primary care doctor, the residents here are able to stay home for routine appointments. For specialty appointments, the medical center is right there. It’s a really huge benefit.”
The interprofessional team includes nurses, geriatricians, social workers, occupational therapists, psychologists and peer support specialists. Members of the team regularly check in with the Veterans to ensure they’re doing well and have everything they need.
“They’re always concerned with how our lives are going.”
When asked about his experience at Colma Veterans Village, McCarthy said, “It’s good to know the social workers are here. They’re always concerned with how our lives are going, which is very helpful.”
VA is working to identify components of the model used at Colma Veterans Village. Those components could improve the services provided at HUD-VASH sites across the country.
VA continues to monitor the outcomes and successes of Colma Veterans Village and hope to expand upon this innovative model of housing and health care to improve outcomes in providing supportive housing for elderly Veterans facing homelessness.
As for McCarthy, he is grateful to VA for the services it provides. He wants to encourage others to use them if they need them.
Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless can call or visit their local facility, where VA staff are ready to assist. Veterans and their families can also access VA services by calling 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).