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A Home Away from Home: Temporary Housing Programs Vital to Mission of Ending Veteran Homelessness

New Directions for Veterans operates transitional housing located at Building 116 of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Campus.
New Directions for Veterans operates transitional housing located at Building 116 of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Campus. The 161-person capacity residence offers on-site comprehensive services for Veterans experiencing homelessness.

Providing Veterans experiencing homelessness with permanent housing can be challenging on many levels, with one being the lack of apartments available for those who are eligible for rental assistance from the federal government.

In some cases, a Veteran may have to wait months, if not a year or longer, to be placed in permanent housing of their choice in the community. The Department of Veterans Affairs follows the housing first model and puts a premium on finding safe, secure, and stable permanent housing with wrap around healthcare services in a community that sets Veterans up for success. Transitional or temporary housing can be a low barrier stepping-stone on some Veterans’ housing journey while they locate the right permanent supportive housing apartment.

Organizations like The Salvation Army, Volunteers of America, and New Directions have transitional housing programs of their own in the community, or which they operate on the VA West Los Angeles campus. These organizations make beds available to Veterans experiencing homelessness, so they have a place to rest their heads and get the medical treatment and social support they need while securing a permanent home.

“These programs play a critical role,” said Rebecca Bernstein, a licensed clinic social worker who helps coordinate transitional housing placements for Veterans within the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS). “They provide a soft landing for Veterans who are starting their transition out of homelessness. It sounds so basic but having a roof over your head and three nutritious meals per day cannot be overstated. It can often take a Veteran a few days just to adjust from living on the street. Once they have a safe place to sleep, they can formulate a plan of what they want to accomplish and where they would like to go because they are having their basic needs met. When some come in, they don’t even have socks or underwear.”

Transitional or temporary housing providers are funded through grants or contracts issued by VA. The Grant Per Diem program provides transitional housing and supportive services for up to two years.  The Health Care for Homeless Veterans programs provide shorter term temporary housing and supportive services, with an emphasis on more vulnerable homeless Veterans such as those with serious mental health diagnoses.

VAGLAHS recently launched the Same-Day Access initiative, which provides any Veteran wishing to get off the streets with a safe, clean place to reside that same day and begin the process of finding permanent housing.  This initiative includes a dedicated mini call-center to screen for eligibility and connect Veterans with transitional or temporary housing programs at the West LA VA campus or in the community.

Veterans and those in the community working with Veterans can reach the mini call-center at 310-268-3350 from 7:30 a.m. – 4 p.m., Monday – Friday. Veterans experiencing homelessness will receive a response from a transitional or temporary housing provider/program liaison within three hours of contacting VA during normal business hours.

Veterans in need of shelter after normal business hours will be able to secure a bed at two transitional housing programs. Partners operating these programs have amended their guidelines to accept Veterans that same day. These operators are:

  • New Directions: Building 116 at the West LA VA, 11301 Wilshire Blvd.
    • 310-597-2891 or 310-597-6950. Monday – Friday, up to 8 p.m.
  • Volunteers of America (VOA): Multiple locations available.
    • 213-563-7979. 24 hours, 7 days a week.

There are several types of transitional or temporary housing options, with some offering Veterans their own space with a kitchen and restroom, while others are more like a college dorm with Veterans sharing a room with access to a community kitchen and shared outdoor space. Some require Veterans to complete daily chores and save a certain amount of money each month.

All include case management to help Veterans stay on track to living independently.

And just as there are different types of housing available, Veterans are unique too. Some are struggling with their mental health, while others just need help getting registered for a housing voucher through VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) – stays mostly range from a few weeks to over a year. One social worker with the VA recalls a Veteran who was in transitional housing for an extended length of time as he struggled to receive immigration papers. Other Veterans have trouble locking in a steady source of income to help cover their monthly expenses.

Bernstein recently worked with a Veteran who went from being homeless to now owning his own home thanks to a loan from VA.

“One thing can set them back so to have a Veteran be able to move into his own home, that was really special,” Bernstein said. “It’s moments like that which remind you how important and rewarding this work can be.”

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