Native American veterans participating in this program will be housed based on a Housing First approach

Feds Expand Homeless Services for Native Veterans

Mark Fogarty

After consulting with tribes, two federal departments are launching a novel joint outreach to assist American Indian veterans who are homeless or likely to become so. The effect is to add a Native component to services reservation Indian vets had been shut out of before.

The U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs are now ready to launch a demonstration program to offer a permanent home and supportive services to Native vets.

The Tribal HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (Tribal HUD-VASH) program will combine $4 million in rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA to serve approximately 600 Native American veterans.

HUD Secretary Julián Castro announced the program at the recent annual Convention of the National Congress of American Indians in San Diego. He also announced the program back on January 30, but six tribal consultations have gone on in the meantime.

HUD is inviting 30 eligible tribes to seek Tribal HUD-VASH vouchers to help house and serve an estimated 600 Native American veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness or at extreme risk of becoming homeless. Four million dollars has been allocated to the demonstration program.

HUD will be providing the rental assistance, while VA will deliver supportive case management services.

The HUD-VASH program has been running for seven years, but only through HUD’s Public Housing Authority program, and not the parallel Indian Housing Authority program. Since 2008, more than 79,000 vouchers have been awarded and approximately 90,000 homeless vets have been served through the broader HUD-VASH program.

The net effect is that urban Native vets could be served by this program through the PHAs, but reservation Indians on the IHA side were not.

Six consultations were held, starting with one in Phoenix in February. HUD said it held a national listening session at the National American Indian Housing Council's legislative conference in February, followed by regional listening sessions held at each of the six Office of Native American Programs field offices.

HUD also received a number of comments from tribes through letters and emails. Generally, the comments were supportive of the program, the agency said.

“The tribe/TDHE (tribally designated housing entity) will provide a monthly rental assistance payment for a specific housing unit in which an eligible Native American veteran will reside,” HUD said. “The housing unit will be specifically designated as a unit that is available for Native American veterans eligible under this program. Project-based rental assistance may be provided to privately owned housing with a contract with the owner of the housing, or a unit that is owned or operated by the tribe/TDHE.”

On the case management side provided by the VA, “eligible homeless veterans will receive services through the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA may provide these services directly or through a community-based outpatient clinic. Alternatively, the VA may engage in a contractual relationship with a tribal healthcare provider or the Indian Health Service for service delivery.

Native American veterans participating in this program will be housed based on a Housing First approach, said HUD, “where homeless veterans are provided housing assistance and then offered the supportive services that may be needed to foster long-term stability and prevent a return to homelessness.”

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