Working Together to Assist Veterans Experiencing Homelessness
DOL-VETS Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) and the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Programs
By Dan Griffiths
For many veterans, stable housing is the key that unlocks health, happiness, and opportunity. Working together, the Department of Labor Veterans' Employment and Training Service’s (DOL-VETS) Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) and the Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program services can be leveraged to bring the greatest benefit and impact to those veterans and their families who may be or who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. These are important components of a complex delivery system that depends on close and productive collaboration between multiple providers.
When community and government-sponsored programs communicate and network, teaming and the potential for delivering positive results for the prevention and mitigation of veteran homelessness are enhanced. This article examines the similarities and differences between the HVRP and SSVF programs, including effective practices that have proven how innovation and the coordination of basic services can lead to best-in-class solutions.
Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP)
DOL-VETS awards multiple discretionary grants under the HVRP that are intended to support veterans experiencing homelessness to reintegrate into society by preparing and placing them into jobs. However, obtaining a job alone cannot end veteran homelessness; stable housing and access to support services make it easier to sustain employment by addressing some of the additional barriers they may face. HVRP grants are employment-focused, providing assessments, Individual Employment Plan (IEP) development, training that is targeted to the specific industries, occupations, and skills that are in demand locally, and outreach to engage and collaborate with public and private partners at all levels (federal, state, and local) to provide supportive services and access to housing. Homeless Female Veterans and Veterans with Families (HFVVWF) grants apply concentrated attention to the unique needs of these special population veterans and help ensure that their complex barriers and support challenges are addressed for a greater chance of securing employment and ending their homelessness. Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program (IVTP) awards are designed to assist currently incarcerated veterans and veterans recently released from incarceration in overcoming barriers to obtaining employment, gaining meaningful work, and avoiding homelessness. Stand Down grant awards are typically one- to three-day events that provide veterans experiencing homelessness with supplies and services such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to other assistance such as health care, housing solutions, employment, substance abuse treatment and mental health counseling.
Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)
The VA’s SSVF program was established in 2011 to rapidly re-house veteran families experiencing homelessness and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis. SSVF grants provide eligible veteran families with outreach, case management, and assistance in obtaining VA and other mainstream benefits that promote housing stability and community integration. Eligible veterans can also receive time-limited temporary payments to cover rent, utilities, security deposits, and moving costs.
How are HVRP and SSVF similar?
- Each program leverages its unique skill sets to foster stability through a combination of housing and employment support services.
- Both programs serve special populations of women veterans: HVRP has the HFVVWF, and SSVF serves a higher proportion of female veterans than any other VA homeless program.
- Some large agencies may have both SSVF and HVRP under the same roof.
How are HVRP and SSVF different?
- While both programs seek to raise stability, each focuses on different components of a veteran’s needs: SSVF is focused on housing placement, while HVRP can help foster long-term stability through employment. SSVF is primarily a housing and financial assistance program. HVRP, on the other hand, cannot pay for any housing-related costs.
- SSVF and HVRP may have different service timelines based on the veteran’s unique needs. For instance, HVRP keeps in contact with all veterans for 270 days, whereas SSVF engagements are unique to each veteran household and may be longer or shorter than the HVRP timeframe.
- Many SSVF grantees employ social workers and housing navigators. At HVRP, staff members are often trained in vocational rehabilitation and other employment-focused services.
Best Practices – Working Together
- Transportation: Because both SSVF and HVRP can pay for limited transportation costs, some agencies use both programs to create transportation logs. For example, veterans enrolled in both programs can use SSVF transportation support to get to medical appointments and HVRP transportation assistance to get to job interviews. SSVF and HVRP programs can use these logs to track efforts, ensure compliance, and identify gaps in coverage.
- Data Sharing: HVRP and SSVF report into different data systems (VOPAR and HMIS respectively), but that does not mean agencies or communities with both programs do not communicate. One community employed Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) outlining what information would be shared between programs. It hosted bi-weekly meetings of case management teams from both programs to go over specific cases and used a joint online calendar to share training and workshops, so veterans enrolled in both did not miss out because of conflicting schedules.
- Innovation: The DOL-VETS Employment Navigator and Partnership Pilot (ENPP) provides one-on-one career assistance to interested transitioning service members, and their spouses, at select military installations worldwide. Veterans connect with an Employment Navigator (EN) for individualized assistance with apprenticeships, employer networking, referrals, digital skill and experience matching, hiring events, training, mentoring, placement, and wrap-around services. The VA’s SSVF began the implementation of a new health care navigation service in FY 2020 – Health Care Navigators (HCNs). HCNs work with individual veterans on gaining access to health care, supporting health care plans by identifying barriers to care, assisting in accessing care, and providing education on wellness-related topics. HCNs are SSVF’s critical link to health care with VA medical centers (VAMCs) and local healthcare providers for care coordination, COVID-19 testing, and vaccines.