HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County works with VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program to provide rapid re-housing and homeless prevention assistance to eligible Veterans and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Here is how it helped Navy Veteran Erik Anderson find permanent housing.
At the beginning of 2020, Anderson was living in Hawaii. He was just weeks away from a Navy honorable discharge and was thinking about his next steps in life. As he considered his options, he decided he wanted to be closer to his three-year-old son in California, so he set his sails on moving to Santa Clara County. Anderson had no family or friends in the area who could help him find a place to live, so he began calling organizations that serve Veterans in the Santa Clara County area, but to no avail.
One organization finally called him back – HomeFirst. And, upon landing in Santa Clara from Hawaii, Anderson was pleasantly surprised to find a hotel room waiting for him.
“Our mission is supplying the Veteran with the services and tools they need and deserve to be successful,” said David Muir, a case manager at HomeFirst. “That’s one of the many pleasures of the job.”
Searching for a home
Anderson spent a little over two months in the hotel while working with one of HomeFirst’s housing specialists to find a permanent residence. He also began looking into options for higher education.
“The housing process was fairly simple. They explained to me the specific steps being taken and how long I should expect to stay in the hotel,” said Anderson. “They treat you like you are a part of their family; it’s like a second family.”
After those two months, Anderson found a permanent residence that he could finally call home. He continues to receive support from his former case manager, Muir, who pushed him to go to school. He is now attending a local community college, working toward an Associate of Arts degree in Ecology, Conservation, and Biology, with the hope of transferring to a university to obtain his bachelor’s degree.
“I now have a sense of safety and can let my worries dissipate,” said Anderson about his current living situation. “Every day, I can go home and have my son run around. It’s very wholesome – I’m just so happy.”
In 2020, VA awarded nearly $400 million in grants under SSVF to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives, which then provide very low-income Veteran families with a range of supportive services designed to promote housing stability among Veteran families across the nation. These grants help Veterans access crucial services and resources that lead to secure permanent housing. The SSVF program also allows Veterans who previously lacked stable housing to focus on their heath, increase their skill levels, and attend to other issues that may be keeping them from realizing their full potential.
- Veterans can contact SSVF grantees directly to inquire about enrollment, or they can get a referral from a VA case manager or homeless coordinator. Visit the SSVF website for a list of current grantees.
- Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
- Visit VA’s Veterans Experiencing Homelessness website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
Maxie Pulliam, LCSW, is a regional coordinator with VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.
Hunter Scott is the Veterans Services associate director at HomeFirst Services, a leading provider of shelter and housing opportunities for those experiencing and at risk of homelessness in Santa Clara County, Calif.