There are those rare times nowadays when a falsehood is easily recognized for what it is, no matter who says it.
Incredible statements by the First Lady and especially Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who had the audacity to say what he did in front of active duty soldiers and veterans. Some of the numbers of homeless veterans recited by Michelle Obama are simply unbelievable, and the very idea there are NO homeless veterans in Virginia, are on its face also unbelievable, as are the government’s suspect numbers.
The Obama administration recently said that the number of homeless veterans dropped by 12 percent from 2010 to 2011. But getting accurate counts of the homeless is extremely difficult, and the government changed its counting methods during the year of the reported drop. Is the number of homeless vets really going down, or is the drop an artifact of murky statistics?
In 2010, the actual head count of homeless veterans registered 61,011 people. However, HUD knows that a head count isn’t going to include everyone. For example, homeless vets who stay in beds at VA shelters were not counted. Homeless people on the streets were not asked if they were veterans or not. To reflect the homeless veterans the PIT count missed, HUD “imputed”—that is, they estimated—the number and added 15,318 homeless veterans to the official 2010 statistic. For reference, a 12 percent drop in the nation’s homeless vets equates to 8834 fewer people.
Even to a fawning media….
“Folks, there is a reason why we are the greatest state in America. We are because we take care of our veterans,” Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) said at a ceremony at a Richmond veterans memorial.
McAuliffe announced Wednesday that Virginia is the first state to meet the federal definition of effectively ending homelessness among military veterans. The federal homelessness designation means Virginia has no homeless veterans with the exception of those who have been offered housing but do not want it. The state must find a home for a veteran within 90 days and have more homes available than the number of veterans who have been identified as having no place to live.
Well, seeing how we find ourselves in that particular demographic, we decided to put the bold assertion to the test.
We contacted the HUD Veterans Affinity Group (VAG) (who responded to our initial email with a phonecall within seven minutes) and relayed Governor McAuliffe’s claim, to which they respectfully replied, “Yeah, right.”
We were instructed to go to the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s (DCVAMC) Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), talk to a Mr. Kevin Morton, and give them an update. Before going there, we called Mr. Morton twice so we’d have an idea of what was needed because it’s a bit of a drive from where we are in Virginia to Washington, DC. Each time we called, we had to leave messages, which we did.
Upon arrival, we entered a rather bland foyer with a small front desk area staffed by two men and a woman. I asked one of the gentlemen if we could speak to Mr. Morton and who referred us to him. A rather annoyed black woman, sitting between the two black men behind the desk, interjected herself and wanted to know what we wanted. We answered, she repeated herself and Laura repeated who sent us and why we were there. She didn’t know the agency that referred us and said that Kevin is not always there. Shortly thereafter, a security guard entered the front desk area from behind the three and said to the woman, “You rang?” to which she replied, “It was an accident.” However, the security remained in the room for the duration of our visit.
Within a couple of minutes, Kevin Morton peeked through the door and the woman (who we later found out is the “Front Desk Manager”?) got up and took him back into the hallway out of our view. After talking to him briefly, she returned and told us we needed to go through the “process” and be in “the system” before we could speak to Mr. Morton. She asked me for the last four digits of my Social Security number, typed it in and nothing came up.
Yet another thing I find astonishing: If any of us were to go to our local motor vehicles department and give them the last four of our Social, they could come back with all kinds of wonderful information. There are any number of companies and/or government agencies that could tell us so much about our pasts with a simple entry of a Social Security number. Yet, the Veterans Administration can’t find verify the existence of a veteran using a Social Security number used during an enlistment?
The woman not only told me we needed to go and bring back a copy of my “DD 214” (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty) but also said there was no geographically-convenient place in the Commonwealth of Virginia where I could bring that copy and get “into the system”. I can only imagine how inconvenient that could be for someone who had no vehicle or the means to travel to Washington, D.C. from Virginia just to be recognized and receive any kind of assistance from the VA.
There is NO convenient place to get a DD 214 (I had to mail away to get mine years ago) and how many forms of identification do you expect a homeless veteran to have in order to confirm his or her identity to get their DD 214? Laura personally found that “Front Desk Manager” to be a power-tripping, “non-essential”, female government worker who displayed very poor customer service skills, and was condescending to us as well as the male worker who initially attempted to answer my questions. As Bill Belichick says, “Do your job!” and people like that rude woman are one of Laura’s pet peeves.
Again, we’re not looking for a handout. I would like my woman, Little Bob, as well as myself to have a secure place where we can call home. Not an extended stay room or the car.
The governor of Virginia claims there are no more homeless veterans in the Commonwealth of Virginia, which means (if we take him at his word) we should be at the head of the line. Let’s hope we don’t fall asleep waiting.
Laura and I returned to DC and the Community Resource and Referral Center during the lunch hour. The rude woman may have been on break, so I talked to the first gentleman who was very professional and nice. While another woman went to check if Mr. Morton was in (and he wasn’t), the man told me we needed to go to Veterans Affairs Medical Center to get into “the system”.
We then went to the VA Medical Center where everyone was courteous.
I was assigned to another gentleman who wanted to know what I was there for. I first told him the “Front Desk Manager” told me there was no place in Virginia for a veteran to get into the system. He then reached into his desk and handed me a card that read “CBOC Ft. Belvoir” (VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic), and added the woman “didn’t know what she was talking about”.
After another 20 minutes, we are now in the “system”. When I told the man about Governor McAuliffe’s quote, he said he knew of no such homeless housing program and lamented how the words of politicians basically make their jobs more challenging.
He also gave us the address of a VA complex right in our part of town.
Tomorrow, we continue our quest of the veterans housing program the governor of Virginia said will get us off the street within 90 days.
Over the last two days, I have been to the VA in Washington D.C., in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and a Veterans support organization and NONE of them either knew, or were willing to educate themselves about the VASH program and present that to us as an option.
What IS the VASH program? According to the HUD website….
The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for participating Veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.
HUD has awarded funding for approximately 10,000 HUD-VASH vouchers each year in 2008-2010 and 2012-2015. In 2011, $50 million was appropriated to serve approximately 7,000 voucher families. In addition, HUD has held two competitions, one in 2010 and one in 2014, to competitively award a total of over 2,000 project-based HUD-VASH vouchers. Since 2008, a total of 79,000 vouchers have been awarded.
As it was explained to us this morning by the Veterans Affinity Group who’s giving us the most valuable mentoring, Congress allocates a certain amount of dollars annually for government assisted housing. A portion of that money is set aside for assisting homeless veterans in obtaining permanent housing, the VASH program. However, if no veterans apply for those housing vouchers, the monies are diverted to Section 8 applicants.
And sorry, how many homeless veterans have access to a computer where they can sit and watch a 90-minute PowerPoint webinar dryly delivered by Nancy Campbell, National Director of the HUD-VASH program, and imagine yourself getting any meaningful assistance from her….
How many times to you hear or see public service announcements for programs to help hungry children or pregnant women or homeless women, etc. and how many times have you heard about a program to get homeless veterans permanently off the street? We’ve personally never heard of one, and the overwhelming majority of government workers we’ve talked to thus far have not presented us with a VASH option. We’re not sure if ignorance or laziness was at play here, but given the scandals that have rocked the VA over the last few years where employee laziness and/or incompetence has been revealed, we’re ruling nothing out when it comes to making homeless veterans knowledgeable when it comes to their options.
Because, according to Virginia Governor McAuliffe’s Veterans Day announcement,
The federal homelessness designation means Virginia has no homeless veterans with the exception of those who have been offered housing but do not want it.
Or don’t know about it because they weren’t told.
A program is only as successful as how many know about it and if government workers don’t know about and share the information with the targeted, are we again talking about more government incompetence by the sanctimonious who are comfortable?
We’ve also uncovered the fact that there is clearly a disconnect when veterans approach certain agencies and could be turned away because of a lack of documents on hand, as we were sent home by that “Front Desk Manager” to get our DD 214 in order to be placed into the system. She supposedly ran my Social Security number and didn’t see my name. From what we were told by VAG this morning, my name should have come up because all veterans DO know their “name, rank, and serial number” which is their Social. Whether this woman didn’t know how to use her computer or didn’t want to help us, we’re not sure, but her issuance of incorrect information cannot be assumed to be an anomaly, and one can only wonder how many other veterans received correct or incorrect information base on her personal criteria and determination of need?
We are now working with a very helpful gentleman (former Marine) at a local non-profit, who initially didn’t know about the VASH program, but unlike the government workers who we’ve had to deal with, educated himself with the program and is now reaching out to his contacts and will get back to us later today on how we can obtain a VASH voucher.
What’s most troubling is that while I’ve had to prove my veteran status just to get into the system and start the process, it was illegal to ask anything of those “undocumented children” who flooded into our country earlier in the year, and what kind of documents are going to be demanded of the Syrian “refugees” the president has brought (and is bringing) into the United States while veterans, some of which may be carrying all of their worldly possessions in a backpack and/or plastic bags, are turned away because of not having documentation that can be easily accessed by a government worker… if he or she could be bothered.
Two days before Thanksgiving, we met with a VA representative at the Fredericksburg Veterans of Foreign Wars post. There, this woman was given temporary power of attorney so she could help me apply for veterans benefits that would hopefully facilitate us acquiring housing.
We finally met face-to-face the gentleman (who is the Region 1 Coordinator (Northwestern), Virginia Veteran and Family Support Program at RACSB, Department of Veterans Services) we’ve been working with at Micah Ecumenical
While the point in time numbers may not be a physical zero, the governor’s announcement is based on an understanding that there is a system in place and it is working. How do we know it is working? Well… when you look at the number of veterans who are reported homeless across the state and compare it with the rate in which communities are housing those individuals, the math indicates that every veteran who is homeless today CAN be housed within 90 days. It does not mean that in those 90 days no new veterans will enter the homeless system. It is simply point in time numbers and what service providers have proven they can do in a short period of time with the resources available.
There, he introduced us to “Jocelyn Faison, LCSW” who we told our story to, told her what we were seeking, and gave her my veteran and contact information. She told us she would get back to us as soon as possible after the Thanksgiving weekend.
Unfortunately after not hearing back, we contacted the Region 1 Coordinator, he sent an inquiring to Jocelyn and received the following reply.
Thanks for following up. The Veteran and his wife wanted to live in Reston, VA which is not in our catchment area and, they were only registered at the DC VA. I informed them that they would have to register in Fredericksburg or Richmond and stay in our catchment area. Due to the nature of their media business, they felt it was best that they stay in the Northern VA/DC area. I did contact the HCHV Outreach Worker in DC who stated that they could drop in a shelter Volunteers of America SSVF (703-341-7020) and be able to potentially start the HUD-VASH services there. Unfortunately, after the Veteran and his wife left I did not receive their phone number for follow up. If you could pass on this information, that would be great.
Jocelyn Faison, LCSW
Our question is if Jocelyn didn’t have our phone number as she wrote in the email, why couldn’t she just ask the coordinator for our contact information instead of claiming we didn’t leave her with our phone number (which we did) and email address?
The Region 1 Coordinator put us in contact with the “Veteran Peer Specialist, OIF Combat Veteran, Virginia Veteran and Family Support (Formally Virginia Wounded Warrior Program), Department of Veterans Services” yesterday (12/1) and he required my information because, despite our going to the Veterans hospital in DC on November 17th and giving a worker there my information so I could be “in the system”, I apparently was still not in the system.
A little more information he offered in a later-sent email…
Below is some useful information that you can use to get assistance for your current situation. I would recommend you start by calling the Fairfax County Community Services Planning intake number at (703)222-0880. Another resource is Friendship Place, POC: Christina Cruz, Intake Specialist. Eligibility Screening: 202-658-9599, Main Office: 202-248-2801. You have already initiated contact with Volunteers of America so they should be contacting you within 48 hours.
We did contact Volunteers of America. It was over 48 hours ago and no call back as of today, and do you remember our discoveries on “Friendship Place”?
Here is a bit more on the criteria for HUD VASH:
Veterans must meet the definition of homelessness defined in The McKinney Homeless Assistance Act (dead link on the HUD website) as amended by S. 896 The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2009.
Veterans who are appropriate candidates for this program must need case management services in order to obtain and sustain independent community housing. Veterans who need case management services have serious mental illness, substance use disorder history, or physical disability. Veterans with the most vulnerability are excellent candidates for this program.
Eligible candidates for the program are expected to participate in case management and utilize the supportive services, treatment recommendations and assistance needed to successfully maintain recovery and sustain housing in the community. Case Management is the heart of this program and is a requirement for participation in the HUD-VASH voucher program.
VA determines clinical eligibility for the program.
So, what we take from this is the VASH program is looking for veterans who are so phenomenally fucked up, they need someone to help just filling out the application, let alone knowing the program exists at all.
If you’re admitted to the program, a case manager will be assigned to work with you on a treatment plan and connection to services. You will also be assisted in obtaining a Section 8 housing voucher and in locating appropriate housing in the community.
Once you find housing, you can expect to have regular, ongoing home visits from your VA case manager. The purpose of these visits is to help you maintain your housing by addressing problems as they occur. There is no time limit for being in the HUD-VASH program. However, if you refuse VA case management, you may lose your Section 8 voucher from HUD.
HUD-VASH Case Managers will determine if you are clinically eligible for the HUD-VASH program. The Public Housing Authority (PHA) determines if you meet the HUD criteria.
So, in the proud tradition of government make-work, the “excellent” candidate would be someone who’d require “case management” workers and feel-good-about-themselves dot orgs to be assigned to monitor them, thereby making veterans who just need a base of security to improve their situation, candidates who are less deemed worth of VASH consideration.
Then again, those candidates are pointed back to the nonprofit shelters to get them off the street where they won’t be seen.
The Veteran Peer Specialist gave me the name of a person to call. We, yesterday afternoon around 3pm, had to leave a message with “J.C.” because she wasn’t in. And you’ll never guess where this woman works: the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center’s (DCVAMC) Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), where we first attempted to talk to Kevin Morton. In other words in almost three weeks, we’ve just gone in one big circle.
We await the return call from the woman at the Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
BTW — It would appear more are claiming bragging rights to ending veteran homelessness.
Today, for the first time in decades, there are no veterans experiencing the tragic ills of homelessness on the streets in Bethesda. We achieved a “functional zero” for veterans homelessness in 2013, and several weeks ago we reached “ABSOLUTE ZERO” on veterans homelessness during our November outreach census.
Yesterday, we met with an official from the VA who administered a verbal questionnaire to determine our eligibility for the VASH program: questions like if we were chronic drug or alcohol users, had been arrested for anything involving violence, drugs and/or alcohol and had any mental health issues. After completing the assessment, it was informally determined that we probably wouldn’t be eligible for a VASH voucher. We also told the official that we were instructed by VAG to reach out to her boss and what the results were. Her response, “He’s a busy man.”
We also found out that, for example, the City of Alexandria, Virginia, has to request VASH vouchers. If they don’t make such a request, none are awarded, thus there would be no housing needed for homeless veterans as they don’t exist. We were also told we may be eligible for “rapid rehousing” via the Volunteers of America, whose representative finally contacted us after the promised 48 hours.
Later in the day, we had to submit to a similar assessment over the phone with Hollen Tillman from Volunteers of America and was told we needed to provide additional documents and she would email us shortly after the conversation detailing what was needed. After telling Hollen what brought us to this place, she said she believed we were people they could work with but the fastest she’s ever seen people receiving housing was three months after applying.
We got no email from Ms. Tillman last night but at 8:33 this morning, we received an email that began with….
I apologize for the delay in this email, it somehow skipped my mind once I came home.
Must be so nice to be able to go home, having no sense of urgency for those assigned to you!
We’re now going to be passed off to this woman’s “Program Coordinator”, who has yet to contact us.
At this point, it looks like the VASH program is nothing but a conduit for back-patting nonprofits that determine the allocation of funds and grants with strings attached that initially point the homeless veteran to shelters where they can be gotten off the streets, thus not counted as homeless. Wouldn’t a home for a veteran be worth more than a for-show RV that gets 2-3 miles per gallon that was acquired and is maintained via donations?
It appears to be all about pricey photo ops and conferences in not-so-modest hotels where they can give themselves little trophies, grants to open new shelters (along with well-paid positions to manage the eligibility and ongoing monitoring based on criteria they determine) instead of provide housing, nonprofits that appear to have little self-serving motivation to truly end veteran homelessness.
Seriously, is THIS eliminating homelessness or just making people feel better about themselves on the backs of veterans…?
And a VERY common theme whenever you look at these snobs’ nonprofit Facebook pages is the fact their personnel are mostly fat and white while their fundraising-profiled recipients and workers are mostly black.
A little over a month since his declarative Veteran’s Day statement about the Commonwealth of Virginia being the first state in the nation to “functionally end veteran homelessness”, Governor Terry McAuliffe took the opportunity to repeat a political comment that requires the suspension of common sense.
After what we’ve written about the governor’s statements (which was polite in comparison to the many we’ve talked to who responded to McAuliffe’s assertion with much more colorful language), we assume the governor saw B&B Media at the grand opening of the Fredericksburg Veterans Benefits Office and may have directed some of his comments to us….
The politics and media bias is sadly predictable.
When the GOP are in the White House, the media discovers and uses the homeless as a club against those heartless Republicans. When Democrats are in the White House, we very seldom hear any news about the homeless. However, last year the First Lady reminded us all just how much President Obama truly cares about veterans and had suddenly decided getting them into homes (visibly off the streets) was this new imperative.
We can name less than a handful of people we’ve contacted in paid positions who really DO care about homeless veterans.
This again illustrates how government solves problems: hiring huge numbers of people and funding well-connected nonprofits that put public Band-Aids on problems. In this case, we mean pushing homeless vets into shelters or maybe apartments that require them to accept “case management” as a condition to staying in that apartment. Those workers get to go home, the vets are given a place to sleep, and homelessness is “functionally ended”. With those metrics, the problem will never be adequately solved because to do so would potentially put government workers out of work and we can’t have any of that.
Once again, we have some elected Democrats using people (this time, homeless veterans) for political gain and some of us will have none of it.
And at the 2016 Democrat National Convention in Philadelphia, McAuliffe continued his shameless lie.
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