As the number of veterans experiencing homelessness remains high, HUD is offering vouchers to help provide vets a place to live.

by Vicky Diaz-Camacho March 21, 2024

Around 100 unhoused veterans in Philadelphia will soon get the help they need. 

Earlier this month, the Philadelphia Housing Authority announced it secured 100 vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs. The vouchers, distributed through HUD’s Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, are valued at $746,196 annually. 

In addition to helping unhoused vets find a place to live, the services made available go beyond securing shelter. 

Veterans and their families who enroll also receive case management support services and clinical services from the VA on top of rental assistance. Senior HUD officials say this program is unique and has helped reduce veteran homelessness over the years. 

“The VASH voucher program is one of the few areas where Congress will continue to give HUD and the VA more resources and where frankly HUD’s priority has been,” senior HUD officials told Billy Penn. “We want to ask for more and request Congress to fund more vouchers overall.”

The Philadelphia Housing Authority was not available for immediate comment. 

Although the rates of veteran homelessness nationwide have decreased some, the need for more housing and resources remains. Locally, it is an even more pressing issue. 

Part of the problem has been housing affordability. More than 40% of Philadelphians spend more than 30% of their income on housing, according to Pew Charitable Trust’s latest housing report.

More than 6.5% of veterans in Pennsylvania live in poverty, which makes them vulnerable for housing insecurity or homelessness. Nearly 778 veterans in Pennsylvania are unhoused, according to the Housing Assistance Council

In Philadelphia, the latest Point in Time tally showed that 4.2% of the unhoused population are veterans, but experts say veteran homelessness might be close to double that number because the way cities track who is unhoused is not as comprehensive as it could be. 

The 100 vouchers aim to bridge the gap.

“Homeless and at-risk veterans need more than shelter. They need stable housing and, at times, critical support services to address their unique needs,” said Kelvin Jeremiah, PHA’s CEO. 

VA officials with Corporal Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center partnered with the housing authority to request the increase to help more of Philadelphia’s low-income veterans live independently.  

Providers see the need unfurling in real time. Dana Spain, president of the foundation’s board of directors at Veterans Village, agrees that expanding access is important. However, she said the focus on vouchers “fundamentally misses the mark.” 

Spain said there is more need to build longer-term plans that increase the number of and give veterans higher quality housing options. 

“It’s sort of like giving a prepaid gas card to someone who uses public transportation,” she said. “It’s great to have the option to use that voucher. But without the options available for housing. Where are they going to use it?”

She considers Veterans Village as one of the few good housing options in the region. 

However, there are prerequisites to live there. Drug and alcohol use are prohibited and veterans with substance abuse issues must enroll in a sobriety program before being considered as a tenant. This departs from the “housing first” model, which provides permanent housing to the person first then connects people who are experiencing homelessness with case managers, medical care and other support networks.

Last year, Spain told WHYY News that ex-military members may need help first before being housed in a “white box.”

The National Alliance to End Homelessness considers that model to be a “flexible and responsive” approach. Some organizations in Philadelphia adhere to those principles.

That includes Veterans Multi-Service Center which serves vets in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, and extends service to central PA, South Jersey and Delaware.

The center welcomes veterans with no income, low or poor credit, criminal background and/or substance use disorder. Their goal is to secure a safe place to live first, says the center’s deputy executive director Ryan McGoldrick, then connect them with resources.

“We see a lot of our veterans who are coming in below the poverty line, who are underemployed or unemployed, who are not receiving benefits that they’re entitled to yet,” McGoldrick said. “We’re seeing increasing rents, especially in the Philadelphia suburbs. And so we know voucher subsidies help to make rent affordable.”

McGoldrick said PHA’s announcement of 100 more vouchers was “wonderful news for agencies like mine.”

HUD’s plan

Officials estimate that over the last 14 years, “veteran homelessness has gone down by 50%,” crediting the HUD-VASH program. They say during the Obama administration, the agency used programs like HUD VASH to cut the rate over nearly a decade. But there’s still work to do to get it to zero.

“It’s really the whole combination of these different interventions used in a really smart way to target veterans based on their level of need,” a senior HUD official explained. “That is what we’ve been able to use to drive down the number of veterans experiencing homelessness.” 

HUD wants to widen the net for who can be helped by voucher programs and has requested increased funding from Congress in 2025. 

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HUD proposed expanding “efficient and resilient housing options” to better serve families, many of whom are low- to moderate-income households and people of color, according to the current administration’s budget request for 2025.

Nationally, HUD proposes 20,000 Housing Choice Vouchers and guaranteed vouchers— amounting to $31.5 billion in total — for extremely low-income veterans and youth aging out of foster care. 

Federal officials have also been working to identify barriers and work with agencies to fine tune their application processes. Last August, for example, HUD and the VA launched a training series, or “Boot Camp.” The workshops focused on increasing communication between agencies and improving efficiency. 

“Some of the things that we discussed and highlighted are things specifically around accessing more affordable housing units such as the landlord outreach [and] the landlord incentives,” a senior HUD official said. 

Officials added they are also focused on the “actual creation of dedicated affordable housing units for the long term that won’t rely on individual landlords” and “creating sustained affordable housing options that are dedicated to the HUD-VASH program.” 

HUD also proposed $20 billion in grants to states, communities and tribes to “implement locally-driven plans to dramatically expand housing supply, lower rental costs, and promote homeownership.”

What’s needed now, though, are more homes in the Philadelphia region that accept voucher holders. 

HUD and the Veterans Multi-Service Center encourage Philadelphia-based landlords to sign up to be a part of HUD’s voucher programming. Rent payment is guaranteed, which is monitored through the local VA and housing authority. 

If you are a homeless Veteran, please contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 or visit for more information.

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