Veteran James Garretson has a home. He and his 16-year-old son live in a two-bedroom duplex in the Roseburg area.
Until about four months ago, that was not the circumstance- James was homeless. “I was scheduled for a series of VA appointments,” explains James, “And one of my providers talked to me about the HUD/VASH Program, saying it would be a good match, and referred me to Tara.”
Simply put, that is how the change in James’ housing situation began. But let’s back up. We need to understand what HUD/VASH means and what it does:
HUD/VASH assists homeless Veterans and their families to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing through the distribution of housing vouchers. Beneficiaries are selected based on certain requirements including health care eligibility, homelessness status and income. The program combines the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the VA Supported Housing (VASH) to partner in the process of approving housing assistance for our Veterans. The VA includes social workers (case managers) who initiate the process for requesting Veterans.
Tara Beairsto, one of the VA Roseburg Healthcare System HUD/VASH Social Workers, met with James Garretson. At that meeting, James provided Tara information based on the National Assessment questionnaire, which includes a series of basic questions such as years in the military, where he served, criminal history if any, rental history, etc. This helped Tara identify if there were any barriers that would limit his opportunity to gain housing. Tara concludes, “Barriers don’t necessarily mean they can’t get housing; it just clarifies for us any challenges we may face in completing the process.”
Fast forward to the next step- James and Tara have an appointment with HUD. In the meantime, Tara has met with the VA HUD/VASH team, completed an assessment, verified that James is a good candidate for the program, and provided the information to a national data base.
“They [HUD] explained to me about the program,” James shares about his appointment, “and helped me to identify what to look for in housing. I received a list of available houses and watched an informational video. They printed my voucher during that time and had it ready for me when the movie was over.”
“HUD/VASH vouchers, or Family Choice Vouchers, (term used by HUD) are the same thing,” explains VA Social Worker, Daniel Wilson. Daniel expounds, “These vouchers include a six month time frame for the Veteran to find housing. It usually doesn’t take anywhere near that long. In James case, it was just a few weeks, but James was very proactive and worked hard at it.” Says James, “I was already looking…checking Craigslist, property management listings, and watching the paper.”
Every potential unit chosen must first be inspected by HUD. Houses don’t necessarily have to be on the HUD housing list, but those that are not will undergo the inspection to ensure the home meets HUD standards, just as homes that were previously rented with the HUD/VASH voucher are inspected each time a rental request comes in. “To keep up with the quality and safety of the home,” says Tara, “There may be something that the landlord needs to fix before it passes the inspection.” Daniel includes, “This whole process may seem somewhat arduous, but it actually goes pretty fast. We are all working together, the housing authority, our case managers, the Veteran and the prospective landlord. Everyone’s goal is to get the Veteran participant in housing as quickly as possible.”
James found a duplex he liked. It wasn’t the first one he looked at. He knew he needed two bedrooms for himself and his son to be comfortable and he had some set criteria- location, price, etc. He also had to think about the cost for the security deposit. “VA doesn’t have budgeting for the security deposit,” explains Tara, “So participants have to pay it, and also the fees to process their application/background check form with the prospective landlord.” James adds, “Some of the landlords help with the security deposit by breaking up the payment…maybe into three payments instead of all at once. It just depends.”
There is some assistance available for the deposit at certain times of the year. Daniel clarifies, “UCAN (United Community Action Network) sometimes has funds available. When they do, they let our HUD/VASH team know.” When this happens, (about quarterly), Tara and the rest of the team, which services six Oregon counties, contact voucher holders who may be having a difficult time coming up with the deposit. “It can be a fair amount of money,” says Tara, “so Veterans with income challenges can get assistance when funds are available.”
Typically, the participant pays for 30-40 percent of their income toward monthly rent, and the balance is paid directly to the landlord. “After one year in the program, participants recertify, and based on their current income, HUD will make an assessment of what their rent will be for the next year,” says Daniel. “But once the Veteran has the voucher, he/she is in the program until their income becomes too high to qualify for assistance.
The next step was for James to take his form from the landlord to HUD for final approval. In just ten days from that point, the duplex was inspected, passed and was ready for James and his son to move in.
Says James, “I made a personal commitment to find the place I wanted to live. It took effort, and Veterans need to put out that effort. When they do, the faster they will be stabilized. It’s totally worth it. Between Tara and Daniel, I have gotten a lot of help. They care and want you, [Veteran] to get what you need and deserve. Don’t be afraid to come forward and ask for help. Take advantage of it. I did, and it has been a very positive experience.”
VA Roseburg HUD/VASH Contacts:
Tara Beairsto: 541-671-6537 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Daniel Wilson: 541-670-6466 email@example.com
Or, 541-440-1000 and ask for the HUD/VASH program case managers
Veteran homelessness is a problem of national importance. President Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki are committed to end it within the next few years. As Secretary Shinseki so eloquently put, “No one who has served this Nation as Veterans have, should ever be living on the streets.”
For more information about the VA HUD/VASH program, follow this link: