SOAR and SSVF: Partnering to End Veteran Homelessness

This blog originally appeared on the SOAR Voices blog.

With the deadline for the next round of Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) approaching on February 3rd, we want to highlight how important the integration of SOAR into SSVF programs has been in ending homelessness for Veterans with disabling conditions.

In 2015, over half of SSVF grantees nationwide were utilizing the SOAR model, either in-house or through community linkages, and 14 percent of grantees had an SSVF-funded position for a SOAR specialist. We know these partnerships have been increasing in 2016 and the SSVF Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) emphasizes this importance when stating:

For participants unable to work due to disability, income must be established through available benefits programs…Grantees are expected to access the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) program either through community linkages or by training staff to deliver SOAR services.”

Prior to the NOFA deadline, we encourage you to reach out to your local SSVF grantees to partner with them to provide these services, or to encourage them to dedicate staff time to SOAR. The list of grantees can be found on the VA’s website.

We are excited to highlight three successful SOAR/SSVF partnerships across the country in the grantees’ own words:

Casey Adamson, MS, Program Supervisor, Supportive Services for Veteran Families – Priority 2, Veterans Village of San Diego – San Diego, California

“San Diego has one of the largest homeless veteran populations in the country, many of whom are not connected to services or benefits.  SSVF is a grant from the VA to help Veterans experiencing homeless to go back into permanent housing. One objective of the program is to link veterans to different resources, including disability.  At Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), many of the clients we see are eligible for SSI/SSDI benefits, but haven’t filed for it or aren’t aware that they would be eligible. VVSD’s SSVF program became involved with the SOAR initiative in 2014. We placed several applications that year with mostly approvals. Two of our Case Managers have had the opportunity to attend the leadership training and have become active members in the local team to increase SOAR use throughout San Diego.  This year, VVSD has increased its use of SOAR by implementing it within our residential programs.  With the approval of applications in a much more manageable time, clients are able to pay for housing on their own.  One story is a client who had a serious heart condition was living in a flooded basement.  SSVF filed a SOAR application and he had income within a few months.  He took over his rent just a month later. VVSD has since filed several applications and is looking at expanding it within the organization.  San Diego is also hoping to incorporate SOAR practice with all homeless service providers.  It has grown to become a learning collaborative and part of the Continuum of Care.”

Connie Farmer, LMSW, Director of Veterans Services, Volunteer Behavioral Health Care System (VBHCS) – Chattanooga, Tennessee

“VBHCS’s SSVF program serves 26 counties in Tennessee, from the Kentucky border to the Georgia border, and started in the fall of 2013. SSVF is a grant from the VA and rehouses low-income Veterans experiencing homelessness. In April of 2014, we added a half-time SOAR position, and in October 2015, this position was transitioned to full-time. Last year, approximately 10 percent of our Veteran families had a member who was served by SOAR. Five out of six of these were approved for SSI or SSDI, and six are still pending approval. We are a Housing First program, which means we house families with no prerequisites, including income, sobriety, or treatment. SSVF pays deposits, rent, and utilities for a short time. SOAR allows eligible individuals and their families to quickly get back on their feet, take over these expenses, and remain in permanent housing.  Their symptoms improve with housing and they are better able to engage in treatment, get adequate sleep, and focus on other goals. Our SOAR specialist is an integral part of our SSVF team, and fills a crucial need in solving homelessness for our most vulnerable veteran families.”

Misty Moon, M.Ed., Program Manager, Priority Veteran, United Way of Central Alabama, Inc. – Birmingham, Alabama

“I serve as Program Compliance Manager through our SSVF grant at United Way of Central Alabama called Priority Veteran. When SSVF started pushing SOAR about 2 years ago, I attended a meeting in Montgomery where Dazara Ware spoke. I left that meeting convinced that this was a necessary thing for us to do to help our Veterans, and I’ve kept that passion for it since.

Being in our fourth SSVF grant year, we’ve noticed that the major barrier to our Veterans sustaining permanent housing on their own was lack of income. We originally had all of our staff sign up to do the online training, but they seemed to stay so busy doing outreach, case management, and more with our over 650 certified Veteran families per year that they couldn’t seem to fit it in at the time. Our 14 case managers serve 68 counties across the state of Alabama and into Georgia. So, I decided to take the SOAR training myself because I felt it would be better for me to know how to train/assist the case managers when they started, and I knew it’d convince senior management at United Way to provide more staff if I could show them how successful it could be. Management has been very supportive of it.

SOAR really has been advantageous for me because I’ve missed working directly with the clients, and this allows me the opportunity to do that and to build more partnerships within our communities. Building relationships with SSA and DDS has made a significant difference for me! I started with my first application last summer, and I’ve currently completed one initial application and assisted with two appeals. I know for sure that two of them have been awarded SSDI, and we’re still awaiting the results of the third one, but they gave us great reason to believe she was approving him. At this point, I receive referrals through our Priority Veteran case managers in HMIS to help our own clients, but one of the three I originally worked with was a VA referral. Our Executive Director has been so supportive of these SOAR efforts that she’s allowing me to dedicate part of my time as Program Manager to focus solely on SOAR. My goal is to assist at least four Veteran families this year while keeping up my other duties. In addition, we refer our Veterans in the Birmingham area for SOAR assistance to One Roof, and we’ve made two referrals in the Columbus, Georgia area.

Using the SOAR model to help our Veterans to sustain permanent housing has been extremely fulfilling for me, and I look forward to seeing more positive results and future funding to come. In my opinion, SOAR is the missing piece to our puzzle, and the SOAR training and staff provide you with everything you need to be successful at it.”

We thank these grantees for all of their hard work in utilizing the SOAR model to help end Veteran homelessness! More information about SOAR and SSVF partnerships can be found in the SOAR and Supportive Services for Veteran Families article. If you would like to highlight your SSVF/SOAR partnership, send your success story to email hidden; JavaScript is required

Homelessness & housing, SMVF, SOAR    

The views expressed by the blog post author are their own and do not necessarily represent the official views of Policy Research Associates, Inc.

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