It’s hard to imagine what being a homeless veteran is like. After spending years serving our country, our discharged servicemen and women have difficulties adjusting back to their everyday lives after dealing with the horror and stress of combat, many left homeless. Unfortunately this is a common story.
For Mike Halladey, overcoming that transitionary period was difficult. “Being in the Army so long, it was really tough for me to adjust and find the right type of networking and the right type of support group to get back on my feet,” he stated in the San Bernardino Sun. For more than three years Halladey had nowhere to turn to, left couch surfing, sleeping in cheap motels, or spending nights in the back of his old car. It wasn’t until he applied to receive government assistance at the San Bernardino Homeless Access Center, then Halladey, his fiancée and two son’s lives changed. Thanks to the San Bernardino County’s initiative and the landlords willing to work with the county and its partners, 501 homeless veterans like Mike Halladey have been able to find safe homes. However, the work is not yet done. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2015 Assessment Report, more than 1 in 10 homeless adults are veterans. As government housing for veterans develops at a snail’s pace, the homeless veterans who have government rent vouchers have been unable to find willing landlords, despite the overwhelming benefits.
Since 2009, when the Obama administration made ending veteran homelessness their priority, various efforts to find housing for veterans has been made on national and state levels. Everything from proposing to build hundreds of veteran housing units in West Los Angeles to creating government-backed incentives for landlords is being done, however, it isn’t enough. First Lady Michelle Obama’s address to landlords last November speaks volumes as to the nationwide reluctance of landlords to shelter our homeless veterans.
Pam Fessler of NPR news observes that the problem lies with tight rental markets where, “in Miami, government vouchers will cover $900 a month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment, but those are hard to find.” However, beyond that, Fessler argues that many available landlords are stereotyping homelessness, even the homeless veterans with government assistance, and because of that they deny assisted veteran applicants.
Yet homelessness is not a choice. Despite using their strength to protect our nation previously, our society has left them completely vulnerable. According to the Urban Institute’s 2009 study, 70% of the homeless veterans studied reported at least one major health problem. Out of the 47,725 homeless veterans, the HUD’s 2015 report shows that 16,220 are unsheltered, meaning that thousands of individuals are exposed to the elements every day.
It’s easy to feel a range of emotions when talking about our homeless veteran population, but realistically as a property manager, you need to fill vacancies and look out for your community. This is where the HUD – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program comes in. This enables “eligible low-income Veterans to receive a Section 8 rental voucher plus case management and supported services from the VA.” HUD-VASH users are background screened and required to use VA case management services to gain government assistance. By allowing HUD-VASH veterans into your community, you guarantee rental income. VA services make sure that your veteran resident gets the help they need while in your community, lowering default risks and insuring that your community stays safe. While, similarly to Section 8 Housing requirements, your property will have to on go a third-party inspection, this will only insure and maintain your property’s quality and safety.
Depending on your Housing Authority, there may be additional benefits in allowing struggling homeless veterans into your community. The Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles has a landlord veteran incentive program (or VIP) that gives landlords participating up to one month’s free rent to hold vacant units.
While California, in particular, represents 24% of the national homeless veteran population and is in need of open landlords, it’s up to you to decide if your housing authority’s payment standard for HUD-VASH recipients is acceptable. You can find out what your area’s rental standard is by contacting your housing authority.
While the amount of homeless veterans is unacceptable, we are slowly making progress. On February 18, 2016, Connecticut became the second state to end veteran homelessness and is on their way to eliminated homelessness in their state altogether. With the aid and understanding of property managers and landlords altogether, slowly we’ll be able to give our veterans the help they need in a safe environment.
Have you considered housing HUD-VASH recipients before? Do you foresee any issues arising from housing homeless veterans with government assistance? Let us know your opinion in the comments section below!