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Ending Homelessness: The VA Summit February 7, 2011

Posted by abhomeless in Events.
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The Charles George VA Medical Center and the Homeless Initiative hosted a summit on veteran homelessness this past Friday, February 4, 2011.

As we have mentioned in previous entries, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness made ending homelessness among veterans a key priority in Opening Doors, the strategic federal plan to end homelessness. In response, the VA produced a 5-Year Plan to end veteran homelessness.

The Charles George VA Medical center serves twenty counties in our local area, including Buncombe County, and is eager to implement the 5-Year Plan to end homelessness among veterans. To that end, on Friday, over forty individuals from the VA, community agencies and non-profits, and veterans experiencing homelessness came together at the Charles George VA Medical Center to discuss the 5-Year Plan and what it looks like in our community.

By partnering with the Homeless Initiative, the group was able to place an emphasis on synchronizing the objectives of Opening Doors, the Federal 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness with the objectives of the 5-Year Plan and to build on the successful partnerships and outcomes that have arisen from the implementation of Asheville-Buncombe’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness.

The Summit was an exciting an event, showcasing the wonderful spirit of collaboration that our community excels at and creating actionable ways for community partners to continue this collaboration moving forward.

Participants at the Summit broke into groups to discuss homelessness as it relates to the following strategic areas of focus:

  • Community Partnerships
  • Housing and Supportive Services
  • Employment Income and Benefits
  • Treatment, and
  • Homeless Prevention and Outreach.

As a result of the participation by a wide variety of agencies and individuals, the summit resulted in the identification of best practices, needs, and ways to strengthen the community’s response to homelessness among veterans.

The VA’s summit on homelessness provided a opportunity for us to come together and show how creative and effective we can be when we put our minds and experience together. As a result of the VA Summit, we are now on track for identifying the action steps necessary to meet the strategic areas of focus for the 5-Year Plan. To build on the momentum of Friday’s event, the Homeless Initiative is hosting a community-wide summit on homelessness. We’ll review action steps, identified during the VA Summit and broaden planning to include everyone in the community who is experiencing homelessness.

All community members interested in joining the efforts to end homelessness are welcome to attend, so mark your calendar now and we’ll update you on the details over the next few weeks!

Together we can, and do, make a difference!

Also! Check out this article on the VA Summit from the Citizen-Times!

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Ending Homelessness – Veterans and the 5-Year Plan- UPDATED December 10, 2010

Posted by abhomeless in The Basics.
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As we have discussed previously, homelessness is the experience of being without stable housing and, as such, it affects an incredibly diverse range of people. This diversity necessitates a closer look so as to better understand issues and determine best-practices for ending homelessness. Today we’re going to look at homelessness among veterans.

Only 8% of the general population can claim veteran status yet veterans make up 1/5 of the homeless population in the United States. This means that homelessness among veterans is more than double the rate of homelessness among the general homeless population. The issues facing veterans are, in many ways, similar to those of non-veterans (lack of affordable housing, lack of a support system, not having a livable income or access to health care, etc). Veterans, however, are made more vulnerable to homelessness due to the physical and psychiatric disabilities that many face after active service. In Asheville-Buncombe during 2009, the regional VA served 457 veterans experiencing homelessness.

For many, it is unconscionable to allow men and women who have risked their lives for our country to be without a home and, in response, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness has made ending homelessness among veterans a priority in “Opening Doors“, the federal strategic plan to end homelessness. As part of this federal partnership and strategic plan, the VA produced a 5-Year Plan to address homelessness among veterans and end it by 2014. VA Secretary Eric Shineski explains the plan this way: “If we want to end veteran homelessness, we must attack the entire downward spiral that ends in homelessness… We must offer education and jobs, treat depression and fight substance abuse, prevent suicides and provide safe housing.” The VA is focused on “the three P’s” – Prevention, Partnerships and Perseverance to stay the course along with community partners until the last veteran is off the street.

Through the 5-Year Plan to End Homelessness, the VA will expand existing programs and develop new initiatives to prevent veterans from entering into homelessness and to treat those who are currently homeless. This will be done by:

  • Increasing the number and variety of housing options including permanent, transitional, contracted, community-operated and VA-operated housing.
  • Providing more supportive services through partnerships to prevent homelessness, improve employability and increase independent living for veterans.
  • Improving access to VA and community based mental health, substance abuse and supportive services.

In response to this federal leadership, the Charles George VA Medical Center, which serves 20 counties in Western North Carolina, is currently implementing the plan using six key strategies listed in bold below, along with a few examples of resources offered to veterans in Asheville and Buncombe County:

  • Outreach & Education: A 24/7 hotline for those experiencing a housing crisis and/or in need of information about veteran services at 1.877.4AIDVET.
  • Treatment: The Homeless Veteran Dental Initiative which helps veterans involved in the Grant and Per Diem Program get the dental care they need.
  • Prevention: The Veteran Justice Outreach Initiative which is just getting started and will work with incarcerated veterans and veterans facing charges in court.
  • Housing & Supportive Services: The Charles George VA Medical Center has partnerships with the ABCCM Veteran’s Quarters and FIRST at Blue Ridge to offer transitional housing programs for veterans who are experiencing homelessness through the Grant and Per Diem Program. Also, the VA is moving towards the Housing First model with the HUD-VASH program which pairs housing vouchers and supportive services to offer permanent, supportive housing to veterans and their families.
  • Income/Employment: Compensated Work Therapy targets veterans experiencing chronic unemployment, homelessness and who are diagnosed with persistent alcohol and/or drug addiction.
  • Community Partnerships: The VA has representatives that take part in the Homeless Coalition in order to share information and promote data and resource sharing.

While the VA, The Veteran’s Quarter and its sister program, the Steadfast House, work specifically to address the unique needs of veterans experiencing homelessness in our community, there are many more organizations, faith groups and volunteers that work to support veterans in the Asheville-Buncombe community. During our conversation with Allison Bond of the VA, she noted that it is the community-wide support of veterans, people experiencing homelessness, the Homeless Coalition and the successful implementation of the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness that has enabled the George Charles VA to implement its 5-Year Plan and to see such success with it in a short time-span.

To learn more about veterans experiencing homelessness or if you are a veteran without housing, contact Allison Bond at the VA Medical Center by calling (828).298.7911 ext 15506. You can also find more information on the VA Facebook page.

As always, you can learn more about homelessness in Asheville-Buncombe by visiting our website and our Facebook page.

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