Homeless Veterans' Housing Grant Isn't Enough

Categories: Housing
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What would a voucher get you in San Francisco?
There are more than 136,000 homeless veterans in the U.S., and California has more than a quarter of them. So while the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is patting itself on the back for handing over more than $4 million in grant money to the Bay Area to help house homeless veterans, this translates to only about 400 vouchers -- a drop in the bucket.

The grant was split among the competing Bay Area counties, with Santa Clara getting the most -- 100 vouchers --  and San Francisco getting a meager 25. San Francisco's most recent homeless count, conducted on January 27, shows that there are about 6,455 people living on the city's streets. Of those, 1,077 people, or 17 percent, were identified as veterans.

The process for getting a voucher is somewhat confusing, to say the least. The San Francisco Veteran's Affairs (VA) medical center screens applications and decides who gets one of the 25 vouchers. The veterans are then assigned a VA case manager and are sent to the Housing Authority's Section 8 program, which manages all payments of rental housing assistance to private landlords on behalf of low-income households.

And here's where it gets even more hopeless. According to Sara Shortt, executive director of the S.F. Housing Rights Committee, San Francisco's Section 8 program has "plummeted into the depths of dysfunction." There are currently 14,000 families on the waiting list -- which has been indefinitely closed --  and Shortt says that the Section 8 staff is notorious for losing files, not returning phone calls, and having rude and unprofessional employees.

"There's a sense of extreme chaos emanating from that department," Shortt told SF Weekly. Even HUD itself issued an audit earlier this year telling the agency to clean up its Section 8 program.  

What this means for homeless veterans is that, even if they are selected to get vouchers, there's no guarantee they will get housed. That's like getting a check and not being allowed to cash it. What's more, the vouchers expire, so the recipients have 90 days to find housing with rent low enough that it would be covered with a voucher -- and that's no easy task in this expensive city.

But even then, Shortt says, voucher recipients often are turned away by landowners. "Nine out of 10 landlords are saying 'No' to Section 8," Shortt says. "I'm pretty convinced it goes back to the Housing Authority's performance -- landlords as much as tenants have been feeling the brunt of the system's failure to function. And the landlords just don't want to put up with it."

This is illegal, but the Housing Authority isn't doing much to enforce the law, she says. 

We asked Gene Gibson, regional public affairs officer for HUD, how the agency would get the word out to veterans. She gave a vague response. "Well, we did a news release," she said.

This is not the only grant by HUD this year. Gibson says California was given 100 vouchers in June, and more may be coming. Still, she admits that it's not much. "This is what Congress is willing to spend," she says.

Given that HUD announced in a recent press release that its goal is to end veteran and long-term chronic homelessness by 2015, it still has a long way to go.

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Jim S.
Jim S.

Slamming the VA and HUD when the real problem, and has been for decades, is the underfunding of the VA, especially, by the American public that love wavin those flags, wearin flag lapel pins and especially those who like laughing about their purple heart bandages as they send soldiers into two theaters! Not only underfunding but totally ignoring veterans on issues like PTS, for some forty years, Agent Orange, Gulf War Syndrome, and so much more, reason, they love cheering on creating hatreds thus enemies, even torturing, but not paying for the long term results from except in enhanced toys of mass destruction!USN '67-'71 All Shore GMG3 Vietnam In-Country '70-'71

Jim S.
Jim S.

WAR TAX NOW, and stop laying blame on the agencies YOU are supposed to fund!

Hearing: Examining the Lifetime Costs of Supporting the Newest Generation of Veteranshttp://veterans.senate.gov/hea...

Committee on Veterans’ Affairs United States Senate 112th Congress, First Session Hearing Schedule Wednesday, July 27, 2011 10:00 a.m.

May be live streamed from site

WITNESS LIST

Crystal Nicely, Caregiver and Spouse of OEF veteran

Paul Rieckhoff, Executive Director, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America Heidi Golding, Principal Analyst, National Security Division, Congressional Budget Office

James Hosek, PhD, Senior Economist, RAND Corporation

Lorelei St. James, Director, Physical Infrastructure, Government Accountability Office Visit for Backlinks to Opening Statements

Flemingrandolph
Flemingrandolph

Then you add to all the failures , problems and shortcomings as cited in above article , the San Francisco 'culture of' anti-military ( with resultant loss of defense jobs ), antiwar ( justifiably or not ) and you also get an anti-vet 'perfect storm' , to boot... City supervisor who'd give 5 point vets preference ( as in federal employment job announcements ) if they were given the choice , to 'non-vet' convicted felons instead of... Priceless.

Guest
Guest

The "Homeless Veterans" getting these vouchers are the VA's program treatment Stars; they have told the VA exactly what they wanted to hear...."I'm in recovery & taking my meds"...."I'm off to my 12-Step religious cult meeting"....."Jesus has saved me", plus they already get 100% disability checks.

Not one REAL homeless veteran on the streets will get one of the vouchers!

Texas Section 8 Guy
Texas Section 8 Guy

I've found this to be untrue, freedomfighter, but I don't deal with the Bay Area VA Clinic... if the housing authority is dysfunctional, then I doubt they have an effective partnership with the VA. 

While there is no requirement that a veteran be sober or medicated, the VA does have to make a clinical assessment of a homeless veteran's readiness to get off the street.  Excuse the cliche, but you don't want to set people up to fail.  If a guy doesn't want to take psych meds, and as a result he refuses to leave his apartment, he'll probably lose his voucher for not coming to his appointments with the VA or housing authority!  If a guy is actively using drugs, and as a result he moves all his street buddies into his new apartment, he'll probably lose his voucher and maybe end up with an eviction on his rental history! Also, there is no requirement that a veteran have a pension from the VA or any other source of income. Still, some vets get the voucher and are able to keep it, drunk off their arses, and never cause anyone any trouble.

I guess my point is that someone who is using drugs or has untreated psychiatric issues is not likely to fulfill the obligations in their contract with the housing authority.  Simple obligations like paying the rent, and not getting arrested, and meeting with a VA case manager twice a month.  Whether or not anyone should be obligated to do anything in order to be housed is a separate philosophical question.......

Guest
Guest

The VA & its Poverty Pimps label "ANY" alcohol use by a homeless veteran as 24/7 STREET-GUTTER ALCOHOLISM , with MANDATORY ABSOLUTE SOBRIETY, 12-Step religious cult treatment, and 12-Step religious cult AA meeting FOR LIFE in order to get a VASH voucher.

The VA will never end veteran homelessness; too many homeless veterans just want a normal life; the VA WILL NOT ALLOW THAT!

Texas Section 8 Guy
Texas Section 8 Guy

FreedomFighter - If that's what's happening at the VA Clinic in SF, then that's a serious problem.  HUD-VASH is supposed to be a "housing first" program, which subscribes to the philosophy that stable housing will allow someone to achieve goals like going to school, kicking a drug or alcohol habit, finding a job, or applying for disability pensions.  The case management portion of HUD-VASH is there to help veterans achieve these goals.  If a veteran isn't interested in working with the VA on goals like this, then this program isn't for them. Whether we like it or not, this is a supportive housing program, and in order to receive the rental assistance, a veteran has to hold his nose and play ball with the VA.  Also, I'm sorry you have such an axe to grind with 12-step programs.  I know they're not for everyone, but you can't deny the success millions of people have had.  It's been said that jazz, rock n' roll, and AA are the only meaningful contribution the US has ever made to the world!

randyfleming
randyfleming

Excellent post and comment !... and subsequently ,  try talking to groups like "Swords into Plowshares' if you're 'not' Iraq / Afghanistan era...  Just sayin'..

Howard
Howard

Under the VA, HUD-VASH program, eligible Veterans are guaranteed at least 120 days to locate housing; not the 90 days your article refers to

Caroline Chen
Caroline Chen

Hi Howard, Thanks for leaving a comment! I just double-checked with a VA representative and it is 90 days, but veterans are allowed to apply for an extension which would give them an extra 30 days. So they get 90-120 days, depending on the circumstances. I hope that helps to clarify. Caroline 

Texas Section 8 Guy
Texas Section 8 Guy

Caroline,Not to nit-pick, but HUD actually REQUIRES a minimum of 120 days to search for a rental unit at the first issuance of the voucher.  The Housing Authority should be very familiar with this fundamental requirement of the HUD-VASH program, and it's unfortunate that the VA staff isn't aware.  If the SF Housing Authority is actually terminating vouchers after only 90 days' initial search, then I'm willing to believe the state of the Section 8 Department is as bad as described. 

HUD's HUD-VASH web page is here: http://portal.hud.gov/hudporta...

And the operating requirements are here.  The 120-day initial search rule is on page 8.http://portal.hud.gov/hudporta... 

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