Property Owners and Managers are Needed to House OC Veterans
By O.C. Supervisor Lisa Barlett
There are at least 446 veterans who are homeless on any given night in Orange County according to the 2013 Orange County “Point in Time Homeless Count”. In addition, to this number, there are more than 2,000 veterans with incomes below 50% of the County’s median income applied on the Orange County Housing Authority waiting list for housing assistance during a two-week period in February 2012. This demonstrates the immediate needs of local veterans for basic shelter and for long term decent, safe and affordable housing. The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress stated that many homeless veterans need supportive services and case management to successfully transition from homelessness to permanent housing. In addition, these veterans typically do not have the financial resources to pay rent. They may also face barriers such as poor credit, prior evictions or lack of funds for a security deposit or other move-in expenses.
To help address the needs of homeless veterans, the Orange County Housing Authority (OCHA) has applied for and received HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. These Vouchers are reserved exclusively for homeless U.S. Veterans receiving services from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Long Beach. VASH veterans receive extensive case management from the VA and also receive support from the Orange County Veterans Service Office, in combination with housing assistance provided by OCHA.
This collaboration has proven successful in housing over 400 VASH veterans since the first allocation of 70 VASH Vouchers was awarded in 2009. OCHA recently received its 6th annual VASH Voucher award and can now assist up to a total of 580 homeless veterans. Approximately 70% of the currently assisted VASH veterans are single persons and the remaining 30% are families.
Veterans who receive a VASH Voucher are able to shop for a rental unit of their choice and pay approximately 30% of their household income for their share of rent. OCHA pays the balance of rent directly to participating property owners and managers. In addition to providing monthly housing assistance payments, OCHA has also secured other funding to help eligible VASH veterans with move-in costs such as security deposits. OCHA is also issuing regular Housing Choice Vouchers to other Veterans who received priority placement on the Housing Choice Voucher Program waiting list. As a result, there are a record number of veterans with Housing Vouchers currently seeking rentals at this time and OCHA is reaching out to rental property owners and managers who can help our veterans find housing in Orange County. Those who are interested can list available rental units at no cost on OCHA’s referral listings by calling: 714/480-2866 or visiting OCHA’s website at OChousing.org.
In addition to the OCHA programs, the VA has a program called Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) which is administered by various service providers in Orange County. SSVF is a housing-stability program, primarily designed to help homeless Veterans and their households. Services may include payment of the move-in deposit and for non-VASH Veterans or payment of their rent for a short period of time. Additionally, for Veteran households who are behind in their rent, SSVF can, in some cases assist Veterans with their arrears. For more information on SSVF, contact Phil Bowers at: 714/615-2279.