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help for homeless veterans

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VA Homeless Programs


The Safe Haven Model


The Safe Haven Model

Low Demand Homeless Programs have played an important role in ending homelessness among our nation's Veterans. Low Demand Programs provide an effective alternative to Veterans who cannot or will not stay clean and sober, or Veterans who have difficulty being fully compliant with their mental health care. Low Demand Homeless Programs are recovery programs that:

  • Provide supportive housing and rely on harm reduction practices
  • Serve hard-to-reach and hard-to-engage chronically homeless Veterans with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders
  • Do not require sobriety or compliance with treatment for admission or continued stay
  • Serve Veterans who have not been able comply with other homeless programs that require being clean and sober for admission and continued stay and full compliance with mental health care

 In FY 2010, under the leadership and direction of the VA National Center on Homelessness among Veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Homeless Program Office established Safe Haven model development initiative that could be replicated throughout the VA to address the special needs of chronically homeless Veterans A Safe Haven is a 24-hour/7-days-a-week community-based early recovery model of supportive housing that serves hard-to-reach, hard-to-engage homeless individuals with severe mental illness and substance use disorders. The program places no treatment participation demands on residents but expects them to transition from unsafe and unstable street life to permanent housing and re-engage with treatment services. Initially the Safe Haven Model was tested in five sites. The national VA Homeless Program now has over 24 contracted Safe Programs with community based homeless service providers.

Safe Haven Fact Sheet


A detailed White Paper of VA's Safe Haven Model Development Initiative


A brief Power Point overview of VA's Safe Haven Program


A brief training Power Point on the basic concepts of a Safe Haven Program


Managing Safe Haven Programs


Safe Haven Safe Rooms and Sober Lounges


The Transtheoretical Model and Stages of Change for Safe Havens


Low Demand Programs provide an effective link between street homelessness and permanent supportive housing. The Ward Family Foundation (2005) conducted a national survey of 79 Safe Havens. This review indicated that Safe Havens effectively engage and retain residents, with over half of residents successfully transitioning into some type of permanent housing program.

VA's own study of first year results of its Safe Have Program yielded similar results. Approximately half (48%) were discharged following successful completion of the program, an additional 39% left the programs by their own decision. Only 5% of Safe Haven residents were asked to leave the program due to rule violations.

The following presentation containing outcome data and fidelity data of the Safe Haven Model Development Initiative: Evaluation & Fiedlity Presentation

VA's Safe Haven model does not require sobriety or full compliance with treatment for admission or continued stay in the program. Many individuals experiencing homelessness cannot be fully compliant with traditional program demands and consequently have repeated failures resulting in chronic homelessness. VA's Safe Havens attempt to reverse that trend by continuously engaging residents using state-of-the art, evidence-based therapies and low demand/harm reduction interventions.

Research from the multi-agency Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic Homelessness (CICH) indicates that staff often require ongoing support and training to adapt to the nuances of implementing a low-demand approach (Olivet, McGraw, Grandin, & Bassuk, 2010). Accordingly, the VA National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans provided a two-day training program on the Safe Haven model for both VA staff and community providers who participated in the model development project. The training included both clinical and administrative issues in Safe Haven management. The National Center on Homelessness among Veterans also provided bi-monthly technical assistance via telepone conference calls for the first three years of the model devlopment initiative. The Safe Haven Program is now a mainstream VA Homeless Program.

No available resources

Safe Haven Implementation Brief (A detailed review of the Safe Haven Model Development Initiative)

Safe Havens Model: An Implementation Framework (A step by step guide for starting and managing a Safe Haven model using an Implementation Science Framework)

An Executive Summary of VA's Safe Haven Program fidelity


Additional Information about VA's safe Haven Program is available from: Roger Casey PhD and Paul Smits

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