HUD addresses Veteran homelessness in new innovative approach with Soldiers leaving the Army
[Timothy Nicolazzi, HUD Kentucky Field Office presents information about HUD homelessness services and HUD-VASH to Soldiers transitioning out of the US Army at Fort Knox, KY.]
Timothy Nicolazzi, HUD Kentucky Field Office presents information about HUD homelessness services and HUD-VASH to Soldiers transitioning out of the US Army at Fort Knox, KY.

The HUD Kentucky Field Office created an initiative to be proactive about educating soldiers about the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program and helping them understand their options in the event they should find themselves homeless. Through an agreement between United States Army Fort Knox, the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and HUD Kentucky, HUD Kentucky Field Policy and Management (FPM) employees provided their first presentation about VASH benefits to over 30 soldiers transitioning back into civilian life after their years of service.

Danny Hagy from the Fort Knox VA said, "the information is invaluable, and I wish we had it sooner as we have soldiers separating that they know will become homeless soon after they leave the base."

"I always favor the HUD approach that is proactive over the approach that is reactionary," said Peter Jackson, the Field Office Director for HUD Kentucky. "Soldiers, more so than anyone else, understand the importance of being appropriately equipped for a fight before it happens, and we need to do a better job mobilizing our program resources to meet them where they are before they need help".

Regardless of rank or length of service, when a soldier prepares to separate or retire from the U.S. Army, they are required to attend mandatory training classes that teach resume building, interview skills, and overviews of veteran benefits. This program, conducted throughout the military, is called the Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and is offered through the military installation's Soldier for Life Center. At Fort Knox Kentucky, the TAP is attended by over a thousand soldiers a year who are in the process of completing their military careers. Most of which are veterans that participated in operations Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), that currently makes up the largest group of VASH recipients according to VA statistics. Based on the soldiers in attendance it was not hard to see why as each of them had different ideas of what they wanted to do after their military career, and all but very few had solid plans for housing in place.

The Fort Knox Soldier for Life Center offers the Transition Assistance Program twice a month and the Kentucky Field Office plans to continue attending and providing briefings to all veterans transitioning out of the military. The Kentucky Field Office also plans to expand the effort to U.S. Army Fort Campbell in the near future, which is roughly twice the size of Fort Knox and is surrounded by a city with a much higher poverty rate than the Kentucky statewide average.

HUD is committed to increasing leadership, collaboration, and coordination among programs serving Veterans experiencing homelessness, and promoting rapid access to permanent housing for all veterans. The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for participating Veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.

Additionally, Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness can make the call to or chat online with the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, where trained counselors are ready to talk confidentially 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at Call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838). The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans is a free, anonymous, confidential resource that's available to anyone, even if a Veteran is not registered with VA or enrolled in VA health care. Additionally, The Veterans Crisis Line is also available by phone or text at (800) 273-8255 and Press 1; text 838255 and or support for deaf and hard of hearing at (800) 799-4889; chat at VeteransCrisisLine.net.