VA and Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) recently teamed up to host a Facebook Live event about the ways in which Veterans and their family members can access VA homelessness resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Veterans experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. This vulnerability is caused by the prevalence of pre-existing conditions and limited access to basic infection prevention and control methods. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act has allowed for the expansion of several VA homeless programs, including Grant and Per Diem (GPD), Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), and Health Care for Homeless Veterans Contract Residential Services (HCHV CRS) ). Leaders from each program briefed viewers with information to get assistance or advise fellow Veterans on how to seek help.

Terrence Hayes, director of communications and public affairs for VFW, began the event by asking the panelists how VA is helping our nation’s diverse group of Veterans during this challenging health emergency.

John Kuhn, national director of the SSVF program, explained that SSVF grantees in each community have been able to quickly place homeless Veterans into emergency housing or hotels during the pandemic with help from an online tool called “SQUARES.”

With VA’s SQUARES online tool, Veterans no longer need to worry about having the correct documents to prove their Veteran status when going to a SSVF grantee for assistance. SSVF grantees can put the Veteran’s information into the SQUARES tool to determine immediately if the Veteran is for SSVF services, then place the Veteran into emergency housing while working to secure permanent housing.

Jefferey Quarles, director of the GPD program, noted that with additional funding from the CARES Act, VA provides grantees with cleaning supplies, sanitizers and more to ensure a safe environment for Veterans. He also mentioned that approximately 6,500 Veterans have been admitted to the GPD program since February 2020, right before the pandemic began.

“There is a no-wrong-door philosophy that we take very seriously at VA,” said Eileen Devine, director of the HCHV program, when discussing where Veterans should go to receive help and resources. “If you take that first step of reaching out to us by contacting the call center or calling your local VA medical center, then we can take it from there in terms of hearing what you need help with and getting you connected with the resources you’re eligible for.”

All panelists encouraged Veterans or those who may know a Veteran who is at risk of or experiencing homelessness to call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838).

“I think the most important thing is that first step, which is often the hardest to take. Veterans don’t typically ask for help; they’re proud and independent. This is something they have earned because of their service to our country,” Kuhn said. “It sometimes takes a person to notice that they’re struggling to encourage them. The folks on this call are our outreach force.”

During the event, participants had their questions answered by VA subject matter experts. If you missed this event, check out some of the highlights below:

Veterans asked for more information about eligibility for homeless programs.

Representatives provided contact information for homeless assistance.

What's the number for SSVF?

Some participants wanted to know how they could help and offer housing.

Thank you to all Veterans, service members and their supporters who participated in this event!

Visit VA’s Homeless Programs website to learn more about VA supportive services and programs for Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. Visit VA’s Homeless Programs COVID-19 Resources website for resources during the pandemic.

Watch the full video below or visit VFW’s Facebook page.

Submitted by the VHA Homeless Programs Office and National Outreach Office. 

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Published on Sep. 29, 2020

Estimated reading time is 3.4 min.

Views to date: 393

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