United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Homeless Vets in Fargo Benefit from Program Partnerships

Most of us don't want to think about what it would be like to be homeless in North Dakota in the winter.

At the Fargo VA Medical Center, they think about it every day.

And while they don't do it to receive awards, they just received the Secretary's Award for Outstanding Achievement in Service for Homeless Veterans from VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki.

Over the past year, the Fargo, North Dakota, VA Medical Center for Homeless Veterans Team, led by Diana Hall, has accomplished many advances leading to improved delivery of benefits and services to homeless Veterans.

Left to right, at the Fargo VA Medical Center:  Mike Danielski and Nate Viton, Outreach Staff; Veteran participants Brian Johnson and Ruby Duciaome; and Brenda Witt, Case Manager.
Left to right, at the Fargo VA Medical Center: Mike Danielski and Nate Viton, Outreach Staff; Veteran participants Brian Johnson and Ruby Duciaome; and Brenda Witt, Case Manager.

They have created such a respected and visible force within the community and the region for taking care of homeless Veterans that other facilities from around the country have heard of their work and services, and some Veterans are sent to Fargo because of the reputation they have developed for best-practice care.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has pledged to end Veteran homelessness in five years and has established a national "zero tolerance" policy for veterans falling into homelessness.

Over the past year, the Fargo team has increased the annual stand-downs from two to six. Stand Downs are typically one-to-three day events providing services to homeless Veterans such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment and substance abuse treatment.

They also exceeded all of the program goals far ahead of schedule. The program is a cooperative partnership of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) which provides long-term case management, supportive services and permanent housing support.

"We have a moral duty to prevent and eliminate homelessness among Veterans."
VA Secretary Shinseki

HUD provides 20,000 "Housing Choice" vouchers to participating public housing authorities to assist with rent payment. The program goals include promoting Veteran recovery and independence to sustain permanent housing in the community for the Veteran and the Veteran's family.

The Fargo team achieved 100% delivery of vouchers and has been granted three times as many more vouchers due to their great success and the initiative shown in reaching out into even more communities around the state of North Dakota.

Other members of the team include Brenda Witt, HUD-VASH Case Manager, Mike Danielski, Grant and Per Diem Program, and Todd Brossart and Nate Viton, Outreach Staff.

Among their many other accomplishments are:

  • An increase in outreach in the community and the state, resulting in substantial improvement in finding Veterans in need.
  • A significant and very important improved relationship with community partners through supervisor collaboration.
  • The streamlining of the dental referral process, working directly with the Chief of Dentistry for efficient referral and verification process.
  • The increased value and efficiency in the use of transitional beds at one of the homeless shelters for solving some difficult placement issues.
  • The coordination with non-VA outreach teams with the North Dakota National Guard for increased referral of rural Veterans.

By Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer