The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently announced it will award a significant number of grants to community organizations that provide assistance and aid to veterans experiencing homelessness. The VA will distribute 426 grants equaling $279 million total among various groups and nonprofits.

Expansion of the VA's Grant and Per Diem program

This initiative is part of ongoing efforts, including the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program, to prevent veteran homelessness and help veterans exit homelessness.

According to the VA, the GPD program's mission is "to promote the development and provision of supportive housing and/or supportive services with the goal of helping homeless veterans achieve residential stability, increase their skill levels and/or income, and obtain greater self-determination."

Service centers and supportive housing programs are eligible for GPD funding. Grants are issued to help organizations acquire, build or renovate facilities that will be used for transitional housing. Additionally, per diem subsidies are awarded to help cover the housing and operational costs for centers that provide supportive housing and other services to veterans experiencing homelessness. Grant recipients are typically first in line to receive per diem funding, although other groups can apply. 

"The GPD program is one component of VA's multifaceted continuum of services and resources to help veterans exit homelessness," VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the announcement. "No veteran should ever have to worry whether they will have stable housing, and these grants put us one step closer to ensuring all veterans are living in a safe and supportive environment."

"The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.""The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement."

Grant types designed to support veterans' various needs

Beginning Oct. 1, 2020, the VA will start awarding three types of grants to eligible community organizations. The majority of the newly announced funds — roughly $221 million — will be directed toward "per diem only grants," which will subsidize 12,138 beds and 18 service centers to cover the costs of lodging and care.

An additional $2.4 million will be provided through "special needs grants" aimed at supporting veterans experiencing homelessness who have additional care needs related to chronic mental illnesses, childcare or women's health.

Finally, $55.3 million worth of "transition in place grants" will be awarded to community agencies that help veterans exit homelessness and achieve housing stability and independence. According to the VA, veterans participating in transitional housing programs benefit from support services and housing with the goal of taking ownership of their housing agreements.

Veteran homelessness rates in decline

As of January 2019, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) determined that 37,085 veterans were living in unsheltered locations, emergency shelters or transitional housing programs. At that time, states with the largest population of veterans experiencing homelessness were California, Florida and Texas.

However, the number of homeless veterans has dropped by 43.3% since 2011, as a result of interventions like the GPD program. Additionally, as of September 2019, three states (Virginia, Delaware and Connecticut) and 78 communities around the U.S. had eliminated veteran homelessness.

"Our nation's veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and now it's our duty to make certain they have a home to call their own," HUD Secretary Ben Carson noted in a 2019 news release. "We've made great progress in our efforts to end veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our heroes have access to affordable housing."