Florida is one of the top “hot spots” for homeless veterans making it the focus of VA officials who have the stated goal of ending veteran homelessness by December 2015. The others are Texas, California and New York.
With less than two years to accomplish that Herculean task of ending veterans homelessness, more than 60 advocates, experts and service providers met in Tampa this week to share details about programs with a record of successfully moving veterans into permanent housing.
The most recent census estimates there are still 5,300 homeless veterans in Florida about 17 percent of the national population of almost 31,000.
Lisa Pape, the national director of Homeless Programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, had staff at the Tampa “Rapid Results Housing Boot Camp” earlier this week.
“Florida is doing a good job, but they have a ways to go,” Pape said in a telephone interview from Washington D.C.
She said Florida is still working to connect all of the state, local and federal agencies that provide services to homeless veterans. But by far, the state’s largest challenge is providing affordable permanent housing.
The technique, Housing First, Pape said is the most effective program so far. The veteran is given housing and then the services are wrapped around the veteran’s needs.
The top five characteristics of a successful homeless veterans program according to Pape:
- Partnerships with every agency that has anything to do with veterans and homelessness from local, state and federal levels as well as non-governmental agencies.
- Connections with the local offices of the U.S. departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development and Labor.
- Providing supportive services to veterans like avenues to employment and mental health.
- Making available, affordable permanent housing giving the veteran a place of their own.
- Providing services for family members of the veteran.
The Tampa boot camp offered three days of training to people already working with homeless veterans showing them more efficient and effective ways to house and provide services. Participants came from three cities in Texas as well as Miami, Sarasota, Bay Pines and Tampa.