The month of November is a unique time to reflect on the many things we at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) have to be thankful for, including the military service of millions of veterans and active duty, guard and reserve servicemembers.
We are thankful for the opportunity to serve hundreds of organizations working to ensure that the most vulnerable veterans can exit homelessness. We are thankful for the incredible progress that has been made on ensuring that all veterans have a safe place to call home. Most of all, we are thankful for the incredible partners we have in this space, including the team at Funders Together to End Homelessness, and its dedicated members, particularly The Home Depot Foundation.
Philanthropy's Critical Role in Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness
Philanthropy plays a critical role in efforts to end veteran homelessness, and is often the unsung hero that fills gaps or drives innovation in promising practices. The Home Depot Foundation has chosen to serve many of our NCHV members and other service providers ending veteran homelessness, investing over $213 million in veteran-related causes, including veteran housing grants, since 2011. These investments have ranged from renovations and development funding for direct homeless service providers, to homelessness prevention services that allow aging veterans and wounded warriors to remain in their homes, to getting tens of thousands of store associates involved in local renovation projects. Most importantly, these investments in our members have filled a critical funding gap for property development and maintenance resources. If not for this investment, service providers would have to cobble together funds from a variety of sources, a time-consuming endeavor that would take time away from the hard work of providing high quality services to help veterans obtain housing.
As we collectively take stock of all we have accomplished in partnership with our members, all levels of government, and our partners at the national level and in philanthropy, it is clear that while veteran homelessness has decreased by nearly 50 percent since 2009, now is not a time to rest on our laurels. Work remains to create local systems across the country that ensure that every veteran experiencing homelessness has a home and that homelessness becomes rare, brief, and nonrecurring.
Impact of Coordination and Collaboration
Work is being done on a national level to ensure that communities are working in a much more coordinated way, and bringing partners together for more effective collaborations. One key part of this work is the Department of Veterans Affairs Grant and Per Diem reboot. This reboot forced providers, for the very first time, to reapply for funding and incentivized participation in community partnerships to end veteran homelessness. While many providers will continue to receive VA funding, it was clear that the transitional housing stock funded through this program did not always match up to demand in communities across the country. In some instances, this will result in reductions of transitional housing capacity in communities.
NCHV is thankful that The Home Depot Foundation has been intentional about understanding needs across communities, and listening to the voices of many to determine where they can make the most impact on ending veteran homelessness. Given this country is facing an affordable housing shortage, it is critical that we look at all possible avenues to increase the housing stock that is available to veterans in a housing crisis. Unfunded transitional housing stock may present a unique opportunity for many communities across the country to increase the availability of affordable housing for veterans exiting homelessness.
While we are at the beginning of this journey, The Home Depot Foundation has partnered with NCHV to identify lessons learned from Grant and Per Diem providers who have already exited the program and have begun to offer affordable or permanent supportive housing. Organizational change is hard, and can be even harder without a clear roadmap or examples to emulate. As the Grant and Per Diem program continues to evolve, NCHV will be publishing a toolkit and some best practice highlights to share lessons learned and inform service providers’ strategic planning, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation. We look forward to sharing them with all of you as they are finalized.
As we celebrated Veterans Day and prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, we thank all of you for supporting efforts to end homelessness, starting with veterans.
Kathryn Monet is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). She has spent over eight years in the public and nonprofit sector working to address housing instability and homelessness among veterans. Prior to joining NCHV, she was with the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs. To learn more about NCHV, visit www.nchv.org.