Virginia VA helps homeless program reach “Functional Zero”
Central Virginia VA and their community partners have announced a major milestone in the fight against Veteran homelessness: Functional Zero.
The partnership includes Crater Area Coalition on Homelessness, St. Joseph’s Villa and Built For Zero.
To be certified as a Functional Zero community, organizations and local governments have created and sustained a support system that ensures fewer Veterans are experiencing homelessness than can be housed in a month.
To be certified as a Functional Zero community, organizations and local governments in the Crater Region have created and sustained a support system that meets these goals.
The certification of Functional Zero means Veteran homelessness is rare and brief when it does occur, according to Brooke Pendleton, VA Homeless Veterans coordinator.
Homeless Veteran coordinators with the Central Virginia VA Health Care System’s Homeless Veterans Program, in partnership with community organizations dedicated to ending homelessness, have made great strides during the past several years.
“Significant progress has been made to prevent and end homelessness,” Pendleton said. “The number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has declined by nearly half since 2010.”
“Functional Zero” describes the situation in a community where homelessness has become a manageable problem. That is, the availability of services and resources match or exceed the demand for them from the target population. For example, a community may declare they have ended homelessness when they have enough supportive housing, shelter beds, service workers and funds to assist the number of people accessing the services. Since 2010, over 850,000 Veterans and their family members have been permanently housed or prevented from becoming homeless.”
The Crater Region covers nine counties and independent cities across Southeastern Virginia. The region is the 11th nationwide to be certified as Functional Zero, due in large part to the collaborative efforts of the Central Virginia VA and community partners.
“Ending homelessness is possible. To achieve this goal, we need continued leadership, collaboration, commitment, and a sense of urgency from communities across the country,” Pendleton said. “Every time a previously homeless Veteran in our community goes to sleep at night, they are in a safe, comfortable space because of the hard work of the people here today.”
Homeless Veteran coordinators with VA medical facilities across the country partner with organizations at the federal, state, and local levels.
A commitment to innovative solutions
The partnerships, like those with CACH, St. Joseph’s Villa and Built For Zero, represent a commitment to finding innovative solutions to the complex issue of homelessness in the community, according to Kimberly Tucker, senior director, Flagler Housing and Homeless Services at St. Joseph’s Villa.
“Today is a celebration,” Tucker said. “We are celebrating that the Crater Region of Virginia has functionally ended Veteran homelessness. We are now among 11 communities across the country to achieve this milestone. Ending homelessness and meeting Functional Zero does not mean that no one will become homeless in our community again. What it means is that we know who is homeless in our community. We are meeting regularly to identify their needs and match them with the best housing intervention within 30 days.
“We all know it is almost impossible to do anything without a roof over your head. Try getting a job, going on an interview, or sending your kids to school while living in your car, or outside. We are proud of achieving Functional Zero for our Veterans, but we are not done. Homelessness is a solvable problem. It can be done and this community has proven it.”
Tim Parish is a public affairs officer for the Central Virginia VA Health Care System.