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Veterans Law

VA Resources for Homeless Veterans

Michael Lostritto

August 9, 2018

Updated: November 20, 2023

homeless veterans

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, over 40,000 veterans experienced homelessness in 2017. VA has organized its programs to address what it deems to be the causes of homelessness such as poverty, isolation from family or friends, lack of access to affordable housing, substance abuse, and mental health challenges that may have developed or worsened as a result of trauma in service.

Health Care

Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program

VA’s DCHV Program provides residential care for all veterans, including those who are homeless or at the risk of becoming homeless. This program is intended to provide veterans suffering multiple severe medical conditions, mental health issues, addiction, or psychosocial deficits with residential care. This structured setting is intended to foster veterans’ independence and aid them in learning self-care. 47 of these facilities exist, offering over 2,400 beds to veterans.

Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Program

The HCHV Program operates out of various VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) across the country. The primary goal of this program is to offer outreach to homeless veterans not currently receiving services and connect them with resources such as case management and residential treatment services, like the DCHV, to aid in the veteran’s transition from homelessness to a stable housing situation.

Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (H-PACTs) Program

H-PACTs are groups of trained professionals who specialize in the needs of homeless veterans. These teams are located in community-based outpatient clinics, VA Medical Centers, and Community Resource and Referral Centers. These teams are comprised of professional medical staff, social workers, substance abuse and mental health counselors, nurses, and homeless program staff.

The H-PACT professionals are aware of the factors that contribute to homelessness and the medical complications that can arise or be exacerbated by it. These professionals are equipped to treat these veterans and lead them to permanent housing services. This program was set in action in 2012 as part of VA’s Housing First policy which sees housing as a form of treatment, as stable housing can prevent illness and encourage recovery.

All veterans, including homeless veterans, are able to receive the following services free of charge and without an appointment at H-PACT clinics:

  • Medical care
  • Case management
  • Housing placement supports
  • Substance abuse treatment
  • Mental health treatment
  • Community referrals
  • Triage services
  • Benefits counseling
  • Access to hot showers and clean clothes

Housing Assistance

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development- VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)

The HUD-VASH program is a joint program between HUD and VA to provide housing vouchers and supportive services to homeless veterans and their families. Rental assistance vouchers are provided by HUD and VA provides veterans with case managers that may connect them with needed supportive services such as health care, mental health care, and substance abuse treatment.

HUD-VASH targets homeless veterans who are the most vulnerable, such as the chronically homeless, those with substance abuse or mental health disorders, severe physical disabilities, and those who require frequent hospitalization. Any homeless veteran with a “diminished functional capacity and resultant need for case management” may also be eligible for this program. Single veterans or veteran families may take part in the HUD-VASH program.

To take part, the homeless veteran must be VA health care eligible. The veteran must also be able to carry out the activities of daily living independently and meet the definition of homelessness as defined in The McKinney Homeless Assistance Act. VA determines the clinical eligibility of veterans seeking to take part in the HUD-VASH program, while the Public Housing Authority (PHA) determines eligibility based on income limits and HUD’s regulations.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF)

The goal of the SSVF program is to prevent the impending loss of a veteran’s home or to find an alternative form of housing for them and their family. In addition, the SSVF program “rapidly rehouses” homeless veterans and their families who would otherwise remain as such without assistance. Case management is also offered to connect the veteran to other VA benefits.

Employment Programs

Homeless Veteran Community Employment Services (HVCES)

Under the HVCES program, each VA Medical Center has a Community Employment Coordinator (CECs) trained to improve employment outcomes for veterans. These individuals work with community organizations and businesses with the ability to hire veterans exiting homelessness. Services provided by CECs include:

  • Pre-screen veterans for employment;
  • Refer veteran job candidates to community businesses;
  • Facilitate hiring and onboarding;
  • Teach veterans how to apply military service to their careers;
  • Connect veterans with supports such as social services, health care, and housing.

Compensated Work Therapy (CWT)

VA’s Compensated Work Therapy is a vocational rehabilitation program aimed at assisting homeless veterans with employment handicaps (such as physical and mental health challenges) return to competitive employment. CWT programs are located at all VAMCs and create relationships with community employers, government agencies, and industries promoting veteran employment opportunities to provide veteran candidates.

If you or someone you know is a homeless veteran in need of medical or housing assistance, contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET to speak with a trained VA responder.

About the Author

Bio photo of Michael Lostritto

Michael joined CCK in September of 2016 as an Attorney, was named Supervising Attorney in 2021, and now serves as a Managing Attorney. His practice focuses on the representation of disabled veterans before the Department of Veterans Affairs and the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims.

See more about Michael