At a press conference at Piquette Square for Veterans today, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced that $1.7 million has been awarded to help place 312 homeless veterans in Michigan into permanent housing.
The press event at Piquette Square was part of a national announcement of $65 million to help end veteran homelessness in the country by increasing the number of HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers available. The HUD-VASH program combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.
The Obama administration has set a goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of this year. Michael Polsinelli, HUD Field Office Director in Detroit, speaking at the Piquette Square event, said that this goal is ambitious but very possible to achieve in Michigan. Mr. Polsinelli pointed out that there was a 33% decline in veteran homelessness nationally between 2010 to 2013 because of the increased commitment and concerted effort to address the issue.
“We have to make sure all veterans have a home in the nation they served and protected,” said Mr. Polsinelli.
Of the $1.7M HUD award to Michigan, about $1.2 million was awarded to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA), allowing an additional 206 veterans to receive vouchers through MSHDA. The four-county area served by the Detroit VA will have an additional 174 HUD-VASH vouchers this year, which is a 25% increase, according to Patricia Wolschon, Director of Homeless Programming for the Detroit VA. The Detroit VA serves Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties.
In the HUD-VASH program, VA Medical Centers assess veterans experiencing homelessness to determine their eligibility for these vouchers. Eligibility is based on several factors, including how long the veteran has been homeless and the veteran’s need for supportive services, such as mental health counseling and substance-abuse treatment, in order to obtain and maintain housing.
At Piquette Square, 25 of the 150 formerly homeless veterans residing in the building have HUD-VASH vouchers. One of them, Bruce Adams, spoke at the press conference.
Mr. Adams served in the Army from 1968 to 1970, and then worked for the City of Detroit. He retired in 2006 and was taking care of his mother at her home. He became homeless two years ago after she died of cancer and he developed a substance-abuse problem. Mr. Adams went to a shelter for homeless veterans. After receiving a HUD-VASH voucher, he obtained an apartment at Piquette Square.
“Since coming Piquette, I’ve become more independent and responsible,” Mr. Adams said at the press conference. “I’ve been able to save a little money, and I’ve been clean and sober the whole time I’ve been here. It’s a good thing that there are more HUD-VASH vouchers for veterans so they could have the opportunity and help that I’ve received.”
Ms. Wolschon and Tasha Gray, Executive Director of the Homeless Action Network of Detroit, said that local agencies serving homeless veterans determined that there were 1,519 homeless veterans in Detroit (including Hamtramck and Highland Park) at the beginning of 2015.
That number has already been reduced to about 1,100 through programs assisting homeless veterans, according to Jamie Ebaugh, Director of the Housing Resource Center (HRC) at Southwest Solutions. One of those programs is Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). The HRC operates an SSVF program that is nationally recognized for its effectiveness. In the last four years, it has served more than 2,000 veterans and their families that were homeless or at risk of homelessness.
There are now sufficient resources in place in Detroit to bring the number of homeless veterans in the city to a “functional zero” by the end of this year, according to Mr. Ebaugh.
The speakers at today’s press conference at Piquette Square were:
- Tim Thorland, Executive Director of Southwest Housing Solutions
- Michael Polsinelli, HUD Field Office Director in Detroit
- Harvey Hollins III, Director of the Governor’s Office of Urban and Metropolitan Initiatives
- Kelly Rose, Director of Rental Assistance and Homeless Solutions at MSHDA
- Isaiah McKinnon, Deputy Mayor of the City of Detroit
- Patricia Wolschon, Director of Homeless Programming for the Detroit VA
- Beverley Ebersold, Regional Coordinator of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness
- Tasha Gray, Executive Director of the Homeless Action Network of Detroit (HAND)
- Bruce Adams, tenant at Piquette Square for Veterans