The Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program is life changing.

After experiencing several financial hardships, Marine Corps Veteran Larry Nelson moved into low-cost housing. His Florida home turned out to be unsafe. He experienced sleepless nights as rats ran through the house and he had his money stolen.

A cousin in Colorado who came to visit and check in on Nelson realized how dire the situation was and called the Ocala Veterans Affairs Clinic for help. Social worker Bobbie Shaw was assigned to Nelson’s case. She leapt into action when she heard Nelson’s story.

Shaw knew that Nelson needed a safe place to live, so her first thought was to enroll him in the HUD-VASH program, which would give him a voucher to make market-rate housing affordable.

At the time, HUD-VASH vouchers could be used only for individual housing, such as an apartment. There were no options for HUD-VASH voucher use in congregate settings.

Group setting preferable after stroke

Shaw and Nelson realized that, because of his age and his diminished ability to care for himself following stroke, he would feel more comfortable living in a group setting. So Shaw instead found an independent family care home for Nelson that perfectly suited his needs.

Through its programs, such as HUD-VASH, VA has developed solid partnerships with nonprofit housing facilities, like VFW Veteran’s Village, to address the specific needs of older Veterans.

Nelson lived comfortably at the family care home for a few years. When the owner died from the coronavirus in 2020, the quality of the home took a sharp decline. Nelson was once again living in unsafe conditions.

Shaw realized it was time to change course in finding a suitable home for Nelson. She decided to revisit the possibility of getting him a HUD-VASH voucher that would meet his needs.

Creating innovative ways to house older Veterans

“Recently, HUD-VASH has been promoting the use of vouchers to assist with congregate living situations,” Shaw said. “Those include assisted living facilities and adult foster homes. The local housing authority determines eligibility for rental assistance, issues the voucher and processes the lease. It also makes the monthly payments. It has to agree to let you use the voucher for congregate living.”

Shaw saw Nelson’s situation as an opportunity to advocate for older Veterans like him. She petitioned the Ocala Housing Authority to explore a new housing option – congregate settings – that would allow them to serve more Veterans while retaining older Veterans in the HUD-VASH program.

“Rather than discharging Veterans requiring congregate housing from the HUD-VASH program and asking them to search for a family home they couldn’t afford, we could keep them in the HUD-VASH program, move them to a congregate living facility, and provide them with additional support services,” Shaw added.

Veteran’s Village a “cruise ship on land”

Shaw’s petition to the Housing Authority worked and Nelson moved into the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) Veteran’s Village in Fort McCoy, Florida.

“The Village was built almost 30 years ago. Veterans have their own room and have meals provided for them,” said Al Lugo, executive director of VFW Veteran’s Village. “They have access to anything they need here, including a community of other Veterans. We like to call the Village a cruise ship on land.”

With support from VA social workers like Shaw, VFW Veteran’s Village has been able to increase the number of residents and provide wraparound services. Physical and occupational therapists, doctors and even barbers come to VFW Veteran’s Village to make services accessible to all Veterans.

Through its programs, such as HUD-VASH, VA has developed solid partnerships with nonprofit housing facilities – like VFW Veteran’s Village – to address the specific needs of older Veterans.

Through their combined efforts, Veterans like Nelson can secure the safe and stable housing they have earned and deserve.

“I didn’t know VA could help me with this kind of thing,” said Nelson. “My cousin is my hero. I am so happy.”

More information

  • Read more about the HUD-VASH program to determine if you are eligible to receive rental assistance.
  • Veterans who are homeless or at risk for homelessness should contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).
  • Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
  • For more stories like these, visit the HPO website and subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

By Deborah Lee is a HUD-VASH regional coordinator with the VHA Homeless Programs Office

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Published on Oct. 19, 2021

Estimated reading time is 3.9 min.

Views to date: 615


  1. Naam House Specialist October 21, 2021 at 12:54 pm

    Have you contacted your area DAV? I don’t know if this will help, but I know in New Jersey, there is a program that accepts spouses (Menlo Park Veterans Memorial Home). I’m located in NY, so my knowledge is limited to this region. Please, Please take care of yourself.

  2. Myron David Hutson October 20, 2021 at 10:23 pm

    I have been receiving VASH assistance for six years after 29 years of homelessness. My financial part of the rent assistance has been increased every year to the point I now do NOT have enough income to pay for my part of the rent In order to have food to eat I will leave my 1 room apt and become homeless next April, 2022 at age 88. Vash help is only temporary especially when a Professional football player has stolen one million dollars from Mississippi food assistance financing. Please keep in mind any VASH help is only temporary!!!

  3. Dana Scott October 20, 2021 at 5:55 am

    How can I apply for the Hudson housing program

  4. Larry Wright October 20, 2021 at 1:20 am

    I grew up in Marion county, I did not know about such programs and it made my heart beat a little happier, to here this story. So many areas of the country including Florida, are pricing people with disabilities out of the housing market. Some veterans wish to return to the towns they grew up in, but a lot of Vietnam veterans are 70 years old and older, I enlisted in the U. S. M. C. At age 17 and hope to return to Marion county some day. Hopefully I will be able to afford safe and private housing. Father Time is a thief before we know it our children our grown, and we wonder where did those wonderful days go when we were young. If any veterans grown children read this the best most important gift you can give a older dad, is not related to money it is the giving of your time. When loved ones give the gift of their time to a older parent I believe the joy it brings to a old veterans heart will actually help them live a little longer, but if not longer, certainly happier knowing you care.

  5. Sherron L Duncan October 19, 2021 at 8:47 pm

    My husband was a 100% Disabled Veteran and he passed away. I applied for Surviving Spouse. Well it took 8 months to get a small check. So I lost my home and lost my car me cause I was with out money. I went to Social Security and they switched me over to my husband amount. Well they took mine away until I received his amount. So it’s been terrible after he passed away. When I got my VA check then I got an apartment and they raised it up with a contract $200.00 more a month. Well I had to leave. I couldn’t afford that. So what is a Survival Spouse going to do?

  6. Mary luce October 19, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    I ha e question regarding myself I am veteran spouse that died in 2001 I would like to if the income go up alittle next will I be able buy at tiny house if it is 19.900 and my income 11.976 annual year

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