Veteran homelessness is unacceptable. The idea that there are literally tens of thousands of veterans around this country who have sacrificed – body and mind – for this country only to end up living on the streets and in shelters is appalling. It dishonors their service.
But there is hope, as the number of homeless veterans has dropped over 48% since 2008.
How did that number drop so greatly? What works?
At the core of this success was the commitment by HUD, SAMHSA, the Veterans Administration, other federal and local agencies - and the nonprofit providers that give services to the homeless – to focus efforts on housing models that have a proven track record of successfully housing homeless veterans. That means permanent supportive housing and rapid rehousing.
Renaissance joined the effort to end veteran homelessness through two programs: its SHOT (Supportive Housing Outreach Team) program, which provides permanent supportive housing for individuals that are chronically homeless, and through an expansion of its rapid rehousing program. The rapid rehousing program was a two year focused effort that showed significant success in quickly moving veterans from homelessness to housing stability and autonomy.
But the rapid rehousing program wasn’t designed to serve chronically homeless veterans: that’s what the SHOT program does. It was argued – and often still is – that the trauma experienced by veterans constitutes a unique set of experiences that needs the services of the Veterans Administration (VA). It is argued that agencies life Renaissance, while well intentioned, simply didn’t understand the experiences of veterans enough to provide the supports that they need to make housing work. It was argued that the SHOT program wouldn’t work for chronically homeless veterans.
But that’s not the case.
Veteran Stability and Renaissance’s SHOT Program
According to a new study of Renaissance’s SHOT Program’s outcomes performed by Dr. Claire Pedersen, outcomes for chronically homeless veterans in SHOT were no different than they were for non-veterans. Meaning veterans in the SHOT program did just as well in achieving housing stability and positive health outcomes as non-veterans did.
It’s clear that SHOT is providing appropriate services and supports to veterans, that these services are meeting their unique needs and experiences.
This is great news, not only for the veterans being served through SHOT, but for the whole homeless services sector that is addressing veteran homelessness. It means that a clinically-rooted, trauma informed permanent supportive housing system like Renaissance’s SHOT Program can deliver the outcomes for chronically homeless veterans that were thought to be dependent on the VA getting involved. Since the VA has limited resources and is subject to swinging political will, the fact that chronically homeless veterans can be served successfully through non-VA permanent supportive housing programs is great news, since there are far more non-VA programs like this than there are VA programs. Because the VA won’t serve veterans who have a dishonorable discharge, it also means that veterans who have a dishonorable discharge from the military due to having mental health symptoms while serving can receive the housing and services they deserve through non-VA programs like SHOT.
This is all good news!