Fewer than 119 veterans were homeless on a given night in January 2018 in Charleston, South Carolina, according to newly released data from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD report is fresh evidence that the work underway by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and its federal and community partners to prevent and end homelessness among veterans is producing the intended results.
The 2018 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count—an annual HUD-led enumeration of America’s homeless population— revealed that overall homelessness among veterans is down 6 percent in Charleston and the number of unsheltered homeless veterans decreased by 63 percent in Charleston since 2017.
“The Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center is committed to ending veteran homelessness,” said Charleston VAMC Director & CEO Scott Isaacks. “Our robust homeless program focuses on housing first because we know having a safe and stable place to stay can be the foundation for success in other areas. After housing, our homeless program staff engage the Veteran in the full spectrum of wrap-around services we provide—from primary care, to mental health care and substance abuse treatment, and even employment services—because these Veterans deserve nothing less.”
Several strategic tactics have led to the successful decline in veteran homelessness in the area. Since 2012, Charleston VAMC has quadrupled the number of staff in their homeless program, now utilizing 64 employees across multiple disciplines to assist Veterans in-need along the South Carolina and Georgia Coast. Additionally, they have implemented evidence-based motivational interviewing, a homeless primary care team, and low demand transitional housing for Veterans who still have active addictions. In 2015, to further improve access to care, the medical center opened the Community Resource and Referral Center in North Charleston—a one-stop shop for those veterans facing or at-risk of homelessness. These tactics along with VA’s national Housing First Model and a local increase in HUD-VASH vouchers have proven to be effective tools to support these vulnerable veterans.
PIT Count data provide a national “snapshot” of homelessness on a given night in America. It is one of many tools that VA staff and partner agencies use to determine where to target resources to help veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Nationally, the PIT Count showed that fewer than 38,000 veterans were homeless on a single night in January 2018—a 5.4 percent decrease since January 2017 and a nearly 50 percent decline since January 2010. The number of unsheltered homeless veterans decreased by nearly 5 percent between January 2017 and January 2018. To date, 64 communities of varying sizes and three states, have effectively ended homelessness among veterans. The PIT Count results revealed that we are continuing to make progress locally and nationally.
“We are proud of the progress of VA and its partner organizations in helping homeless and at-risk veterans become and remain stably housed,” said Michael Taylor, VA director of homeless veterans outreach. “While there’s more work to be done, the data reported today by HUD shows that the evidence-based strategies that we’re using to help veterans exit homelessness are producing positive and lasting results for veterans who lack stable housing.”
VA has a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. In FY 2017 alone, more than 50,000 veterans found permanent housing and supportive services through VA’s continuum of homeless programs. Between October 2010 and September 2017, more than 600,000 veterans and their family members have been permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless.
More information about VA programs for homeless veterans is available at www.va.gov/homeless. Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact their local VA medical center and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator or call 1-877-4AID-VET.