More than 158,000 veterans have exited homelessness since 2008 as a result of a joint program between the VA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program provides eligible homeless veterans with vouchers that make market-rate housing affordable. The program also provides enrolled veterans with comprehensive case management and wraparound services - including health care, mental health treatment and, if needed, substance use counseling - that help them further their recovery while remaining stably housed.
Near Boston, 14 formerly homeless veterans have a place to call home thanks to the partnership between the VA Boston Health Care System's HUD-VASH program and Howard Apartments. The HUD-VASH program targets chronically homeless veterans, who are the most vulnerable due to severe mental and/or physical health problems and/or substance use disorders. However, other veterans who are homeless with diminished functional capacity are also eligible for the program.
Howard Apartments, managed by Peabody Properties, opened in December 2016 on the campus of the Brockton VA Medical Center. Each veteran resident - many of whom are senior citizens - has their own studio apartment and shares the use of a community center.
According to Cheryl Simmons, a VA supervisory social worker assigned to veterans at Howard Apartments, each apartment is furnished and includes a set of linens, towels, plates, pots and pans, and other basics.
Simmons says she's seen “such a positive reaction from the veteran residents. To qualify, they had to have been homeless. … The building is a beautiful new residence. They're really appreciative.”
At the Howard Apartments, a VA HUD-VASH social worker provides case management services on-site to help each veteran remain stably housed. A VA peer support specialist is also on site to assist veterans with everyday tasks like grocery shopping and budgeting. These support systems provided by the VA, in addition to the assistance provided by Peabody Properties personnel, allow residents to maintain their independence - something especially important to older residents who want to preserve a good quality of life as they age. The joint VA-Peabody Properties team at Howard Apartments tailors services and assistance to meet each veteran's unique needs.
Simmons points out the convenient location of Howard Apartments - on the campus of the Brockton VA Medical Center - makes it easier for veterans to get to medical appointments and receive the care they need.
The social opportunities also are a benefit; Peabody Properties plans activities throughout the year, including for holidays, Simmons says.
Plus, there's the camaraderie that comes with living in a shared environment with other veterans who have common military and personal experiences.
“They look out for each other and check on each other, which is a help to us,” Simmons says. “They have a lot of respect for each other and appreciate their shared life experiences. So, that's another benefit.”