Toward Understanding Homelessness: The 2007 National Symposium on Homelessness Research. Employment and Income Supports for Homeless People. U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

03/01/2007

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is one of the federal governments most important providers of employment services and income and in-kind assistance directed to the homeless population, especially unaccompanied adults. NSHAPC estimated that about one-quarter of the adult homeless population has served their country in the Armed Services (Burt, Aron, & Lee, 1999). The Department reports that, on any given day, as many as 200,000 veterans (male and female) are living on the streets or in shelters, and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs 2006). The VA also provides cash assistance and health care coverage to veterans, including those who are or have been homeless, although NSHAPC estimated fairly low percentages of homeless veterans receiving veterans disability payments or veterans pensions (Burt, Aron, & Lee, 1999). Two VA programs support employment and training interventions for homeless veterans: the Capital Grant and Per Diem program and the Compensated Work Therapy program.

The Capital Grant and Per Diem program funds community-based agencies to provide transitional housing or service centers for homeless veterans. Under the Capital Grant Component, the VA may fund up to 65 percent of the project for the construction, acquisition, or renovation of facilities or to purchase vans to provide outreach and services to homeless veterans. The Per Diem Component is available to grantees to help offset operational expenses. Programs may apply for Per Diem Only funding. Per Diem funds can be used for a variety of services, including education and job training.

No specific evaluations have been done to determine whether stays in transitional housing programs funded by the Capital Grant and Per Diem program increase the likelihood that homeless veterans will become employed. However, many Grant and Per Diem residents are receiving job training assistance through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), which is operated by the Department of Labor. HVRP has produced positive employment outcomes for program participants (see U.S. Department of Labor section below).

The VA also administers a Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) program for impaired, at-risk, and homeless veterans who have multiple challenges, including psychiatric and substance abuse issues, physical limitations, ex-offender status, and/or family relationship issues. Participants in CWT programs are referred by a primary-care clinical team that has assessed the veteran and determined that he or she could benefit from the program. Vocational rehabilitation specialists then work with the veteran to address barriers that stand in the way of achieving full-time gainful employment in the private sector.

Compensated Work Therapy has two components, Transitional Residence (CWT/TR) and Veterans Industries (CWT/VI). Transitional residences are community-based supervised group homes in which veterans live while working for pay in the Veterans Industries program. Veterans in the CWT/TR program work about 33 hours per week, with approximate earnings of $732 per month, and pay an average of $186 per month toward maintenance and upkeep of the residence. The average length of stay is about 174 days.

Veterans Industries is a vocational rehabilitation program that endeavors to place veterans in competitive jobs and to provide workplace supports as needed. VA contracts with private industry and the public sector for work done by these veterans. CWT/VI staff provide vocational rehabilitation services; employment supports and case management; work site analysis; and consultation with businesses regarding assistive technology, accommodation, and guidance in addressing Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations compliance. An evaluation of the program found that these services did not produce significantly greater improvement among participants than other clients on any of seven outcome measures, one of which was employment (Rosenheck, Stolar, & Fontana, 2000).[12]

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