25 Cities Effort provides stable housing to homeless Veterans

PHILADELPHIA, PA – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), launched the 25 Cities Effort in March 2014. Philadelphia is one of 25 Cities identified by the Department of Veterans Affairs with exceptionally high concentrations of homeless Veterans and selected to intensify and integrate local efforts to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Philadelphia’s 25 Cities Effort has culminated in the Philly Vets Home 2015 Coalition. This Campaign is driven by collaboration between VA, HUD, the 25 Cities Offices, the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and four non-profit organizations who have committed to end homelessness among Veterans in Philadelphia by Veterans Day 2015.

The Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC) is one of four Philly Vets Home non-profit partners that receives technical assistance through the 25 Cities Effort to mobilize local planning efforts, strengthen partnerships, and create effective and coordinated systems to end Veteran homelessness.

Green with Brinson“I was not aware of all the housing programs [the Veterans Multi-Service Center] had, until I finally got connected with one of them. And since then it’s been a lot better; a lot better. It’s one of the best things that can happen,” Thomas Green.

Before entering the Veterans Multi-Service Center’s (VMC) Shelter Plus Care Program, Thomas Green, an Army Veteran who served from 1976 to 1983, struggled with multiple episodes of homelessness spanning the past twenty years. Mr. Green bounced between various local shelters, including time spent at the Coatesville VA Domiciliary, before being housed through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF), only to be evicted after losing his income. With the assistance and ongoing support of his SSVF case manager, Mr. Green has found a stable home in VMC’s Shelter Plus Care Program. This program aids clients in maintaining housing stability by providing case management as well as other supportive services to address different health needs.

Collaboration between various VA programs has been integral to finding Mr. Green stable housing and case management services. As a previous participant in SSVF, a current client of Perimeter, a homeless day program funded by the VA Grant and Per Diem program, and having a community actively involved in the 25 Cities Effort, Green is a perfect example of how coordinated services produce positive results.

Unsurprisingly, Mr. Green’s outlook on the future has changed for the better since being housed: “[Housing] has just changed me 150%; it changed my whole outlook,” said Mr. Green during one recent conversation. Mr. Green is now able to spend time focusing on his finances, health, and employment instead of where he will spend the night, or where he will find his next meal. “I can plan things now. I can see my family more. I don’t have to go around my family and worry about leaving at a certain time to get back to the shelter system. I don’t have to worry about the place giving out the food, I can go home and fix my own food. If I want to sit down and read the newspaper from back to front, which I like to do, I can do it.”

Housing provides freedom and stability; it provides a foundation off which other challenges can more easily be conquered. It is this belief that drives the sincere and passionate involvement in the Philadelphia 25 Cities Initiative and the Philly Vets Home Coalition.

Another Veteran who faced struggles similar to Mr. Green and exited homelessness with a renewed commitment to improve his life is Delvin Brinson. Brinson has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to Mr. Green, and many others.

Brinson, much like Green, enjoyed the structure and comradery he found while serving in the 2nd and 63rd Mechanized Division of the Army from 1979 to 1985. Mr. Brinson began experiencing homelessness beginning in 1998. Through his involvement in VMC transitional housing, Brinson participated in job training and computer classes and has now moved into permanent housing and found employment through the VMC as a Veteran Outreach Specialist. Today, Brinson is a key asset to the Outreach Team at VMC due to his skills in building relationships and trust with other homeless Veterans through their shared experiences.

Brinson explained stating: “Once they hear my story and they look at themselves… and see that I’ve done it and I’m working with this organization, trying to explain to them that [VMC] can help them, then they begin to build a little trust.”

Both Green and Brinson agree, trust is paramount for getting homeless Veterans connected to service organizations, like the Philly Vets Home partners. These non-profit organizations, and federal and local government agencies, are able to give Veterans the services they deserve, but Veterans must trust these services and the staff they interact with in order to reach out for help. The two also expressed the need to better inform homeless Veterans of the services available at individual organizations and through the Coalition more broadly.

The Philly Vets Home 2015 Coalition has placed approximately 1,100 Veterans into housing so far, an amazing achievement, but there is still a lot to accomplish, especially considering the goal of ending Veteran homelessness in Philadelphia by Veterans Day 2015.

Still, as the Coalition presses forward, it’s integral that the public and the broader community become a part of the mission. If the community comes together there will be even more good news stories to share, like those of Brinson and Green. Philly Vets Home partners believe that nobody who fought for this country should have to fight for housing, a job, or the healthcare that they need and deserve.

Department of Veteran Affairs Blog – VAntagepoint
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) 

Officials Poised To Declare Success In Ending Veteran Homelessness

Charles Bouges shares his story of homelessness. (credit: Pat Loeb)

Charles Bouges shares his story of homelessness. (credit: Pat Loeb)

By Pat Loeb

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Former Army ranger Charles Bouges has an all-too-common story.

“I had a mishap, lost my job, lost my wife, went through depression, just kind of gave up and didn’t have a place to stay,” he says.

Bouges found himself on the street, contributing to the grim statistics on veteran homelessness.

Now, he is a symbol of success for a collaborative effort to end veteran homelessness. City, federal and non-profit officials say they are closing in on their goal and expect that by November 11th, this year, they will reach what they call “functional zero” for the number of veterans living on the street– a measure that takes into account that some veterans may drift into homelessness but the effort will insure they will be quickly moved into permanent housing.

“Functional zero means that homelessness among veterans is rare, brief and non-recurring,” says Casey McCollum, Acting Homeless Coordinator at the VA Medical Center in West Philadelphia.

She says the collaboration, called PhillyVetsHome, has housed 1,126 veterans since it began in August 2013. There are another 280 in transitional housing that will soon be permanently housed and, she says, 31 who outreach workers are trying to bring into the system.

“I’ve never worked with anything that has had this much success, this much collaboration,” says Marie Nahikian, Philadelphia’s Director of Supportive Housing. “Agencies put down their barriers, set aside their rules and said, ‘figure out how to make this work’ and that commitment is phenomenal.”

She also says additional resources have helped, though officials were unable to say how much the effort has cost because so many agencies are involved. Nahikian says, though, whatever the cost, it is less expensive than the cost of leaving veterans on the street.

For Bouges, it was seeking medical attention at VA Medical Center that brought him into the system. Following his visit, he was directed to outreach workers who immediately offered him temporary housing and enrolled him in a detox and rehabilitation program.

In six months, he’d been assigned permanent housing.

“I’m in my place now. I’m happy,” he says. “The program really works for veterans.”


Veterans Utility Assistance!!

As part of UESF’s efforts to address the housing stability of Veterans in Philadelphia,  a special program has been launched for Veterans with utility challenges.  Veterans in Philadelphia with utility shut-off notices or terminated utility service may be eligible for assistance through the Veterans Utility Grant Program—- running for a limited time.

Eligible Veterans should call the UESF Veteran Utility Hotline at 215-814-6844 for additional information, and to schedule an appointment for service.  



Landlords, we need YOU! 

As a property owner, we need your help as we embark on this incredibly important task by allowing veterans experiencing homelessness to rent from your housing properties.  Some veterans participate in the HUD-VASH program, which is a case management supported housing program through HUD and the VA. Other veterans may receive supportive case management services through the City’s Department of Behavioral Health. Some may not require ongoing intensive supportive services, but just need a safe, stable, affordable place in which to live.

Our online form is NOW LIVE – To express your interest in renting your property to a local veteran, please complete this form or email PhillyVetsHome2015@gmail.com for more information!

1,000 Philadelphia Veterans Find Their Way Home

Philadelphia, PA, June 29, 2015 – New numbers released by PhillyVetsHome, a collaborative venture of government agencies and non-profit organizations working to end Veteran homelessness in the City of Philadelphia, reveal that 1,000 Veterans have been placed in housing.

This marks a near 90% decrease in the number of unsheltered Veterans experiencing street homelessness within two years.

PhillyVetsHome partners unanimously attribute this tremendous progress to unprecedented collaboration.

“HUD is proud to be a partner in this amazing collaborative effort that is building momentum every day,” said Jane C.W. Vincent, Regional Administrator of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Mid-Atlantic region. “Significant progress has been made because of our commitment to collaboration and our shared goal of providing housing for those men and women who have served to protect our freedom and way of life.”

PHA President and CEO Kelvin Jeremiah agreed, “To be able to partner with other city agencies and like-minded partners to meet the great need for affordable housing in Philadelphia is undoubtedly a good thing. The success of this partnership is measured by the number of Veterans and their families who now have a home and a bit more stability. I am extremely proud to serve these individuals and look forward to many more success stories.”

When asked to share the story of the 1000th Veteran housed, the PhillyVetsHome coalition explained that sixteen Veterans were housed simultaneously in a single day. Yet, one Veteran stood out, because his new home brought with it a new lease on life.

Charles Bouges, an Army Veteran housed through the HUD-VASH program, first rode to Northeast Philadelphia to see an apartment, but it was the airport nearby that rekindled his long lost plan.  During his 17 years of service in the Army, he worked on helicopters and yearned to be a pilot. Now, after finding stability in his new home, his aim is to get a pilot’s license –it’s only a matter of time before he will soar over Philadelphia.

“Our commitment as partners to eliminate homelessness for those men and women who have proudly served this country is becoming a reality,” said Dan Hendee, director of the Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center. “Working together, as a community, helps us to ensure that systems are in place to support all veterans who may experience a housing crisis or need assistance.”

With the recent milestone of housing 1,000 veterans, PhillyVetsHome is more confident than ever that the city will reach its goal to end Veteran homelessness by this Veterans Day and will help all Veterans, like Mr. Bouges, to achieve personal success.


Chesco follows Philly’s Lead

Chesco exceeds goal, housing 121 veterans in 100 days
Michaelle Bond, Inquirer Staff Writer

“Joseph Lewis, an Army veteran, lost his job as a security guard, and then his home, when the osteoporosis in his feet prevented him from standing for long periods.

He lived on the streets of Coatesville, his hometown, because he did not want to burden his family.

The Coatesville Veterans Affairs Medical Center housed him temporarily and helped him find work at a warehouse. This year, he set a goal to celebrate his birthday in his own home.

Lewis turned 50 on Saturday, a week after moving into his new two-bedroom apartment in Coatesville.

“I’m so happy I don’t know what to do with myself,” he said.

Lewis was one of 121 veterans – from young adults to seniors – who found permanent housing in Chester County in its latest campaign to house 100 veterans in 100 days. Wednesday was the 100th day of the campaign.”

Read more at www.philly.com

FEB Drive Gives the Comforts of Home

Check out PhillyVetsHome Partners (the Veterans Multi-Service Center and Pathways to Housing PA) featured in the latest issue of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development HUDLine News
DSCF3532Richard Ott, Deputy Regional Administrator
(215) 656-0600, hud.gov/pennsylvania
Associate Editor: Niki Edwards, niki.v.edwards@hud.gov

Last month, HUD’s Philadelphia Regional Office supported the Federal Executive Board’s Homeless to Housed Drive, filling its conference room with employee donations for three Philadelphia nonprofit organizations. Household items, ranging from comforters to towels, were collected for veterans and other individuals experiencing homelessness. “The donated goods will be used to create welcome baskets to help these people get started and encourage them to stay in their new home,” said Federal Executive Board Executive Director Lisa Makosewski in her memo to federal agencies, requesting support for the drive. “The needed items are things that many of us take for granted, but for someone who is moving into a home with nothing to bring from their previous address, the basics can turn a house into a home.” The FEB’s primary mission involves the coordination and support of intergovernmental and community activities in the Delaware Valley, bridging the gap of communication and collaboration for more than 170 federal entities. This is the second year it has sponsored the drive.ayers (2)

Donations were given to the Veterans Multi-Service Center (VMC), Pathways to Housing PA and The Dreuding Center. Since 1980, the VMC has been serving those who have served. According to VMC Director of Development Debby Derricks, HUD’s donations will help 75 veterans and families make their houses into homes. She said over the last year the nonprofit has been busy fulfilling its mission. “We have provided housing for over 500 veterans and their families, placed 300 veterans in jobs and served approximately 175,000 meals.” said Derricks. A recipient of their assistance is Navy veteran Albert Ayers, who signed a lease for an apartment in April. Upon moving into his new home, he was presented with a welcome basket. Now, his goal is to find employment to increase his income and stabilize his housing. Above left, Warren Davis with the Veterans Multi-Service Center picks up HUD’s donations from Ben Houck and Joe Nicodemo. At right, Navy veteran Albert Ayers poses for a photo in his new home

PIT Count Proves Progress on Path to End Veteran Homelessness in Philadelphia

Philadelphia, PA, May 22, 2015 – PhillyVetsHome, a collaborative venture of government agencies and non-profit organizations has made tremendous headway towards ending Veteran homelessness in Philadelphia.

According to the 2015 Point-In-Time (PIT) count released this month by the Office of Supportive Housing, the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in Philadelphia continues to decrease.

Since 2013, the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness of any kind decreased by 23%; the number of unsheltered Veterans experiencing street homelessness decreased by 86%; and over 900 Veterans have moved into housing.

PhillyVetsHome partners attribute the incredible progress of the past year to unprecedented collaboration of government and nonprofit agencies and believe this success suggests a model for other pressing issues facing the City of Philadelphia.

Last month, the PhillyVetsHome along with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced an ambitious end date to Veteran homelessness in the city: Veterans Day 2015. After November 11th, 2015, if homelessness should occur in a Veteran’s life, it will be rare, brief and non-reoccurring.

Philadelphia is one of 25 Cities identified by the Department of Veteran Affairs, with exceptionally high concentrations of homeless Veterans and selected to intensify and integrate local efforts to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.  This is a joint effort by VA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and local community partners to find permanent housing solutions for Veterans experiencing homelessness. Of the 25 Cities participating in this initiative, only one city has reached the goal to date.

With the recent release of the PIT Count, PhillyVetsHome believes Philadelphia could be next.

The Veterans Family Project Receives PACDC Blue Ribbon Award!

pacdc vet awardApril 23, 2015:

Impact Services Corporation won the Philadelphia Association of Community Development Corporation’s (PACDC) Blue Ribbon Award for Best Large Community Project for 2015.  Impact Services will be completing The Veterans Family Center, fully subsidized apartments for low-income veteran families by November 11, 2015.  The Center will be a newly renovated factory located at 1940 East Allegheny Avenue and will house 26 two-and three-bedroom apartments for Veterans and their families.

Let’s congratulate these Philly Vets Home 2015 partners on a job well done!