The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that nearly 40,000 veterans were homeless as of January 2016—making up about 10 percent of all people experiencing homelessness. To help, the government is converting unneeded federal property into supportive housing for some of these vets. Today’s WatchBlog takes you inside some of these properties and shares what the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to do to improve its supportive housing program.
(Photos of supportive housing in Dayton, Ohio. Excerpted from GAO-17-101)Supportive housing Three major health risks contribute to veteran homelessness: mental health problems, substance abuse, and chronic illnesses. Supportive housing is widely recognized as a key solution for persistent veteran homelessness since it can provide services that address many of these problems.
(Excerpted from GAO-17-101)VA and HUD teamed up with private and not-for-profit partners to convert surplus federal property into supportive housing. This housing was created using “enhanced-use leases.” This type of housing provides vulnerable vets with a place to live on a VA medical campus—where they can access an array of community and medical services. What does living on a VA medical center campus look like? Here’s one in New Jersey: Another in Illinois: And one in Minnesota:
(Photos excerpted from GAO-17-101)Our interactive graphics show the location and status of these units, as well as each state’s population of homeless veterans, as illustrated below.
(Excerpted from GAO-17-101)Future housing VA plans to develop additional supportive-housing using enhanced-use leases. But we found that VA officials did not completely document their decision-making process for selecting properties to convert. This means that VA can’t build on lessons learned when identifying and developing future properties. We also found that VA has some outdated policies. For example, it doesn’t specifically provide guidance on how to determine whether a proposed project meets the needs of homeless vets. We made recommendations to address both of these issues. To learn more, check out our full report.