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Nov 13

HUD-VASH Program Assists Homeless Veterans

Posted on November 13, 2014 at 9:15 am by Dawn Corrigan

Pensacola is known for having one of the largest military retiree populations in the United States. Many of these veterans visited here while attending training schools and remember a friendly, warm place to live. Unfortunately, for some veterans after their discharge, circumstances find them no longer able to support themselves and their families. In some of the worst-case scenarios, these vets may resort to living in shelters or their cars, sleeping on the beaches, and, in some cases, living under the Three-Mile Bridge.

In 2008, the Pensacola Housing Office requested funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to house 35 homeless veterans and their families. When funding was granted, the VA hired a licensed social services counselor and the local HUD-VASH program (Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing) was launched.

VA staff made outreach to homeless camps and shelters to locate eligible veterans and encourage them to apply, while Pensacola Housing staff informed local landlords about the program and encouraged them to accept rental applications from VASH families. Many of the property owners were also ex-military and willing to assist.

After several additional allocations from HUD, most recently in October 2014, Pensacola Housing now has vouchers available to assist a total of 141 homeless veteran households. The VA staff available to work with these families has also grown, from one caseworker to four.

The program works by paying a portion of the VASH family’s rent directly to the landlord, with the amount paid determined by household income and other factors. Veterans participating in the program also have access to case management and other supportive services provided by VA staff.

For homeless veterans interested in the program, their path out of homelessness starts with the VA caseworker, who verifies their homeless status and then refers them to the Housing Office, where Housing staff guide them through the lease-up process. Once the family is leased up in a rental unit, the veteran continues to receive counseling and other supportive services until no longer required. The VA caseworkers assist with varying needs—everything from locating furniture to crisis intervention.

Under the HUD-VASH program, some formerly homeless veterans are now attending educational and vocational programs, with plans of achieving ever greater self-sufficiency. Other program participants are elderly or disabled veterans who appreciate the stability the program provides.

The VASH program is available to serve low-income, homeless veterans. If you know someone who fits these criteria and is in need of assistance, please contact Stephen Voight of the VA at 850-912-2268, or Marsha Bazinet of the Pensacola Housing Office at 850-858-0312 or