The VA has established the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) University as a resource for SSVF grantees seeking to develop, implement, and/or improve their program. The site includes information, tools, and training on program requirements and practices, which can be navigated through the menu above. For more information on the resources available on SSVF University, click on the link below:
The SSVF program assists Veterans who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness end their housing crisis and stabilize in housing. There are two primary forms of assistance:
Homelessness Prevention – Homelessness prevention assistance is intended for eligible Veteran families who are imminently at-risk of becoming literally homeless but for SSVF assistance (permanent housing category 1). Targeting SSVF assistance in this manner helps ensure limited SSVF resources are directed to Veteran families most in need of assistance to avoid falling into literal homelessness (e.g., entering an emergency shelter).
Rapid Re-housing – Rapid re-housing assistance is intended for eligible Veteran families who are literally homeless and may remain literally homeless but for SSVF assistance. Targeting SSVF assistance in this manner helps ensure limited SSVF resources are directed to Veteran families most in need of assistance to end their homelessness (e.g., exit an emergency shelter and obtain their own housing).
Some programs and communities have been offering targeted homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing for up to twenty years; these are no longer new concepts. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 enabled the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to distribute nearly $1.5 billion over three years to 535 state and local governments under the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), which assisted over a million people across the U.S. to avoid or resolve homelessness. Since that time, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has established the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which builds on lessons learned from HPRP and elsewhere in order to effectively end or prevent homelessness among Veterans.
But because many state and local jurisdictions and nonprofit agencies developed or expanded these programs very quickly, some may have missed the opportunity to discuss the core concepts or utilize the characteristics of effective practice in their program design. As a result, agencies have often developed programs ad hoc, based primarily on funding requirements rather than consistent program principles.
Apart from providing access to program requirements, the intent of this University is to present a set of Standards for effective homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing practice, along with guidance, training, and tools that are consistent with the SSVF Practice Standards and over two decades of program experience. Additional links to relevant research are also provided.
Homeless prevention and rapid re-housing programs that utilize the Standards will be internally consistent: direct service, supervision, planning and program management will be mutually-supportive. This can be particularly helpful when the program is conducting a self-analysis for performance or quality improvement. If staff have different values and approaches, it can be difficult to know what caused the program’s results—or how to improve them. More importantly, programs that meet the Standards have based their services on approaches most likely to produce desired outcomes for those they serve.
Program Requirements includes information on VA requirements for the program, such as eligible uses of funding, eligible Veteran families, data collection and reporting requirements, and other information.
Practice Areas and Resources includes information about the "practice" of delivering effective and efficient homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing assistance for Veterans and their families. There are five Practice Areas, each of which includes:
|✓||SSVF Practice Standards relevant to the Practice Area.|
|✓||Guidance on key elements of effective practices.|
|✓||Training resources: links to relevant training produced by the VA, HUD, and other entities.|
|✓||Toolkit: links to forms, templates, checklists, etc., that can be adapted or adopted by rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention programs.|
Practice Area 1: Outreach, Engagement and Admissions Screening/Selection These program components are related to the most important planning decision a program must make: who is the target of our services and how can we best find and engage them? This Practice Area addresses the many choices each program must make and the connections between those choices.
Practice Area 2: Assessment and Housing Plan After making decisions about targeting, outreach, engagement and screening, programs must decide what to assess, when to assess it and how the assessment will be utilized in developing an individualized Housing Plan. This Practice Area addresses the critical areas programs should always assess—and those that should be assessed only when indicated by the participant’s specific barriers to housing stability. This Practice Area also addresses the characteristics of a good Housing Plan in a program that is driven by the Housing First philosophy, a crisis response strategy and participant choice.
Practice Area 3: Participant Services, Non-Financial As with all other aspects of rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention, non-financial assistance will mirror the program's mission and philosophy. While "housing stability" is the stated goal, the definition of housing stability adopted or endorsed (explicitly or implicitly) by the program will determine the actual service delivery methods. Therefore, a clear definition is required—one that is consistent with the core concepts. Significant non-financial factors that impact housing stability will, in many cases, exceed an agency's capacity to resolve. The wide range of services potentially needed by consumers requires each program to develop and maintain a network of services, through informal and formal relationships, in the community. Use of these services is person-centered rather than agency centered; a program may need to develop a relationship with a particular agency even when only one household requires that agency's services. This Practice Area includes considerations for the design of case management, housing search and placement, tenancy supports, and referrals for critical community resources such as legal services, vocational assistance, and credit repair.
Practice Area 4: Participant Services, Financial Assistance Financial assistance is critical in a crisis response program focused on assisting very low-income people to get and keep housing. The majority of households who are at-risk or literally homeless have incomes below $500/month and experience severe rent-burden. They most often face housing because they were unable to pay the rent, and a lack funds to pay the high costs of obtaining housing (security deposit, first month's rent, sometimes last month's rent) prevents them from exiting homelessness. This Practice Area includes considerations for designing and delivering temporary financial assistance in an effective and efficient manner.
Practice Area 5: Landlord Supports Landlords in tight housing markets are able to be extremely selective in choosing new tenants, and they have many reasons to screen carefully. And whenever the supply of prospective tenants greatly exceeds the number of available rental vacancies, strict screening requirements increase. A large percentage of re-housing/prevention participants have poverty-related credit and income barriers and would be screened out without the assistance of a service provider. This Practice Area addresses the reasons why landlords are willing to accept tenants who are working with a service provider, and how programs can develop these partnerships.
The University can be used for a wide variety of purposes:
Included in the University are four User Guides that outline key decisions and effective practices for staff with different roles. The Guides include tips for using the SSVF University and Practice Standards for program design and review, managing personnel, and providing direct assistance to program participants.
Click the links below to learn more about each User Guide. Click here to view the full User Guides page.
The SSVF Practice Standards and related resources were developed to assist in program planning efforts. Standards list the types of program policies and procedures; staff training and supervision processes; and performance and quality improvement activities that a high-quality program should have in place. These elements are referenced in the Standards, but each individual program must make many decisions about how to operationalize and individualize the Standards to fit their own program. This User Guide helps planners navigate practices, consider options, and design effective, high-quality programs. Learn more
Staff and board members with responsibility for implementing and managing programs have many duties. It is difficult to constantly monitor consistency between the program’s mission and philosophy and the multitude of operational details and data elements involved in running that program. "Mission drift" (informally changing the original mission) is common, not because of deliberate decisions but because programs have not developed the infrastructure to maintain their focus. This User Guide helps program managers effectively and efficiently oversee their program and continually improve performance and quality. Learn more
As in any emergency response program, staff may be immersed in crises that often do not have simple resolutions. Frequent case consultation, role modeling, coaching and support must be part of the supervisor's job. Staffing turnover can also challenge agencies. The loss of experienced staff, coupled with constraints on training funds and/or time can lead to a loss of service effectiveness unless staff training and supervision are effective and efficient. This User Guide summarizes training and supervision activities that can be undertaken by one person or be divided among several management and supervisory staff. Learn more
Direct service in a rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention program is a difficult balancing act. This User Guide summarizes some of the issues common to direct service staff, with suggestions about steps to take to improve effectiveness and understand roles commonly required of staff who may be new to Housing First, crisis programming and/or participant-driven services. Learn more