Social workers from the Amarillo VA Health Care System in Texas encountered 18 Veterans who were facing serious financial difficulties aggravated by current restrictions.

Rebuilding a life after being homeless can be a challenge. Doing so and keeping a steady income during these unprecedented times can add to that challenge.

“Some of the Veterans had experienced a loss of income. They had to choose between buying food or paying bills,” said Teena Hall. Hall is Amarillo VA’s Housing First coordinator. “This pandemic has put additional stress on Veterans’ budgets. They simply were not in a position to stretch it any further. This is why our social workers regularly check in with our Veterans.”

Program designed to end homelessness

Housing First is a Department of Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program designed to support the national goal of ending chronic homelessness.

“This pandemic has put additional stress on Veterans’ budgets and they simply were not in a position to stretch it any further.”

The bills of the Veterans ranged from $50 to $1,600, totaling more than $10,000. Amarillo VA social workers painstakingly researched and found grants. Community organizations such as Vet Star, Veteran Resource Center and Panhandle Community Services provided grants. Using these funds, the team was able to pay every bill for every Veteran.

“One of the requirements for Veterans on the HUD/VASH voucher program is that utilities and rent have to be paid timely,” said Hall. “When a Veteran falls behind on paying their bills, it places him or her at risk for becoming homeless again.”

Once enrolled in the Amarillo VA Housing First Program, Veterans are assigned a social worker who maintains regular contact to check on housing, food, and other needs.

They knew who had money and used it

“The team definitely took a proactive homeless prevention action,” Hall said.  “I am most proud of our team. They saw a need, were in touch with community resources, and knew who had grant money and used it.”

VA’s specialized programs for homeless Veterans serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk Veterans each year.

Independently, and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutionsemployment opportunitieshealth carejustice- and reentry-related services and more.

Joel Mease is a public affairs officer for the Amarillo VA Health Care System.

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Published on Dec. 10, 2020

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