As the weather gets colder and the days grow shorter, we’re reminded of those who don’t have access to secure housing. Homelessness, is more dynamic than it seems and can be present in a myriad of ways. Couch surfing, living in a hotel, moving from shelter to shelter, camping under a bridge—all are accurate representations of homelessness. At Home Front Military Network, one of our goals is to provide resources to prevent homelessness for our service members, veterans and their families. One of the ways we go about that is by providing emergency financial assistance to those eligible—a leg-up on this month’s rent or utilities, followed by connection to resources like financial counseling or employment, so that a vulnerable family does not have to face the uncertainty of homelessness.
Another way HFMN prevents homelessness is by teaming up with organizations like Rocky Mountain Human Services—specifically their Homes for All Veterans program. For this month’s blog we’ve provided an outline on Rocky Mountain Human Service’s programs, impact, and how they can be reached.
RMHS isn’t the only organization within Home Front Military Network’s Partner Network that prevents and assists homelessness. To get the full scope of HFMN’s trusted community partners, visit https://homefrontmilitarynetwork.org/partners/.
Homes for All Veterans (HAV) is funded by a specific grant – SSVF (Supportive Services for Veteran Families) awarded to Rocky Mountain Human Services by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) since the inception in 2010 alongside VOA who also shares this statewide grant.
The SSVF grant is founded on the principle that no Veteran should be forced to live on the streets and every Veteran has a right to safe, permanent housing. As an SSVF grantee we are dedicated to ending Veteran homelessness by fostering a well-coordinated and efficient local community system that assures Veteran homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring.
To support these efforts the HAV program currently employs 30 staff members to include Outreach and Intake specialists, Veteran Support Specialists, Housing Specialists, a Healthcare Navigator, and many program coordinators and assistants to support our service of more than 1100 Veteran households each year who are experiencing literal homelessness or are in danger of homelessness throughout the state of Colorado.
The veteran population we serve are considered the most vulnerable, low-income veterans and our challenge is to effectively target our services to engage those veterans who are most at-risk.
Eligibility criteria for SSVF includes the absence of other housing options, financial resources, and supports sufficient to prevent or end literal homelessness (i.e., criteria to screen-in applicants who “but for” the program’s assistance would become or remain literally homeless and/or make it difficult to become rehoused if they become homeless).
Eligibility and prioritization criteria do not include factors, such as minimum income, skills, or ability to obtain or maintain employment, that are designed to screen out applicants who are predicted to fail in permanent housing.
Once enrolled in our Homes for All Veterans program, veterans work with an assigned Veteran Support Specialists who in partnership with the veteran household develops an individualized Housing Plan following a thoughtful assessment of areas and includes the participant’s goals, strengths, and preferences; addresses critical housing retention barriers; and is reasonable and realistic in scope, recognizing the general difficulty people have making multiple, simultaneous life changes. The initial Plan addresses the participant’s immediate housing crisis and any risks to health and safety while subsequent Plans address obtaining and/or maintaining permanent housing.
Especially in this current rental market, it’s important to keep people housed because the number of veterans seeking housing continues to outpace the rate of veterans being housed. This is because our current rental market rates and move-in requirements are locking the most vulnerable veterans out of housing and increasing the trauma within our veteran population who are forced to remain homeless longer than anticipated or lose housing after many years of stability due to rent increases at lease renewal.
In our Colorado Springs/El Paso County community, there are over 300 veterans known to be experiencing homelessness. No one really chooses homelessness. Perhaps some people initially chose to be free of responsibly, but most people experiencing homelessness landed here due to some type of trauma: unemployment, illness, accidents, separation in the family, and in our veteran’s case, trauma related to their service in the military.
But no matter the reason these are individuals who chose to serve our country and are now homeless in our city. Evidence shows that when a person has safe, stable housing and connections to social supports they are more able to improve their lives and become active members of our community – our neighbors, our friends, our workers, our family. Sadly, today we only see them as “the homeless veteran.” We must do better, and we CAN do better!
If you are a veteran or know a veteran who needs support to increase housing stability, please either call us at our Colorado Springs, 17 S. Weber St, office 719-323-2600 which is also open to walk-ins on M, W and F from 8:30a – 12p and 1p-4:30p or call (855) VETS-HAV (838-7428). Please also connect to our website at http://www.rmhumanservices.org/hav to learn more about eligibility requirements and additional statewide contact information.