On Nov. 11, 2017, communities across the State of Nebraska took time to honor their veterans. Earlier in the year, a major milestone in supporting some of those veterans was reached.
On May 28, 2017, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness presented the Balance of State Continuum of Care with confirmation of effectively ending veteran homelessness. The Balance of State Continuum of Care represents the vast geographic majority of Nebraska (90 of the 93 counties in the state; all except for Douglas, Lancaster, and Saunders Counties).
What that means is, any veteran who wants a stable home in those 90 counties, can have one. A collective, cooperative effort among agencies across the continuum of care has made instances of homelessness among the veteran population rare, brief and non-recurring.
“The system is now in place that allows us to identify and engage any veterans who come into homelessness. Some veterans choose to remain homeless, and for them, continued outreach and engagement is essential,” said Ryan Bailey, Blue Valley Community Action Partnership’s Family and Community Services Director. “Our priority is housing stability, and we are proud to say that through partnerships with the Veterans Administration and local resources, we are able to help veterans find and maintain stable housing.”
BVCA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is dedicated to serving veterans who are homeless or at imminent-risk of becoming homeless. The program helps the veteran locate safe and affordable housing and connects them to resources so they can remain in a stable situation. It’s a short- term crisis intervention that utilizes the “Housing First” model. Housing First focuses on getting the veteran in a stable living situation first, and then addresses any barriers to continued housing stability. Lack of income, mental health issues, poor rental history, substance abuse, etc. are all addressed after housing is secured, Bailey explained. It has been proven that once a person is stably housed and does not have to worry about basic needs, he or she can then address other issues more successfully, she added.
The Balance of State Continuum of Care implemented a data collection system that allows any agency that comes in contact with a veteran (either through programs, referrals or outreach efforts) to identify and name every veteran in Nebraska. Not every veteran chooses to be housed but when they do the system allows the opportunity to provide the best foundation for their success.