Homelessness: Is There Help?

Researched by Shannon Wahler, Surekha Karudapuram, & Ruth MacDougall. Written by Ruth MacDougall.

In This Article:
– VA Help
– Community Help
– VA Employment Programs Helping Combat Homelessness

The National Alliance to End Homelessness says no two people experience homelessness the same way, yet, they all have in common not having a safe or appropriate place to live.

From emergency shelters to permanent housing, community organizations and Veterans Administration (VA) programs can help individuals and families find safe and appropriate places to live. Many also provide supportive services.

Connecting with help programs, like the ones outlined in this article, occurs in a variety of ways:

  • Personal phone or computer
  • Computers and/or phones available for public use in local libraries
  • In-person visits to a shelter, VA facility, or community-based outpatient clinic
  • Outreach programs sponsored by service organizations or VA


The VA Homeless Program consists of a group of programs available for Veterans experiencing homelessness. Finding which program is appropriate can be difficult. Use these points of contact for help:

National Call Center for Homeless Veterans

  •  24/7 @ 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838)

Veterans without a phone or the internet, can visit the closest VA medical center

  • Free and confidential
  • Information about homeless programs, health care, housing access, and more
  • Operator asks Veteran callers questions to determine needs, then connects them with a VA staff person who can help. This document explains the process
  • Family and care providers can call on a Veteran’s behalf. They receive information about available programs and services, and optional follow-up

National Call Center for Homeless Veterans Success Stories 

Stand Downs

  • 1- to-3-day events held in various locations around the country
  • Free services to homeless Veterans in a single spot
  • VA staff, partners, and volunteers provide help like:
    • Housing referrals
    • Food
    • Showers, haircuts, clothing
    • Health screenings and referrals
    • Employment help
    • Substance use treatment referrals
    • Mental health counseling referrals
    • Benefits help
    • Legal help
  • See a current calendar of upcoming Stand Downs on the VA Homeless Programs page

Hear VA staff and American Legion volunteers at a NJ event speak about Stand Downs

Community Resource and Referral Centers (CRRCs)

  • One-stop access to community-based, multiagency services promoting:
    • permanent housing
    • health and mental health care
    • career development
    • access to VA and non-VA benefits
  • CRRCs work in collaboration with local community, state, and other federal partners
  • Locate phone numbers and addresses in this CRRC directory

Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program (DCHV)


  • Partnership between HUD (Housing and Urban Development) & VA Supportive Housing
  • Helps pay rent and provides supportive services for homeless Veterans and their families
  • VA case managers
    • provide referrals for HUD-VASH housing vouchers
    • coordinate supportive services such as:
      • health care
      • mental health treatment
      • substance use counseling
  • Changes in the HUD-VASH Legislative Rule waived previous requirements for chronic mental illness or substance use treatment, and zero income cannot be a basis of denial
  • Get help through:

Learn more about HUD-VASH from staff, peer support specialists, and participants

Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF)

  • Helps very low-income Veterans through community partnerships to:
    • prevent imminent home loss
    • identify a better housing situation
    • rapidly re-house Veterans and their families who might remain homeless without this help
  • Get help through:
    • referral from a VA case manager, or
    • contacting a VA homeless coordinator, or
    • contacting SSVF program organizations directly. Find an organization by clicking on the ‘Explore the Directory’ button on the SSVF website



  • United Way program that guides callers to local help like shelters, food banks, housing
  • Dial 2-1-1 and ask about sources of help in your area
  • Search the 2-1-1 database for resources

Shelter Listings

  • By-state listing of a variety of shelter types, including:
    • Emergency Shelters
    • Day Shelters
    • Halfway Housing (transitional housing between shelters and permanent housing)

Homeless Shelters Directory

  • Clickable state map leads to by-city listings of shelters in the area
  • Shelter information includes:
    • Location
    • Hours
    • Number of beds
    • Website
    • Phone number

The site suggests calling ahead to check availability

  • Site also includes sources of help for:
    • Food banks
    • Free dental care clinics
    • Free treatment centers

Just Shelter

  • By-state search feature
  • Contact information and website links to community organizations involved with:
    • affordable housing,
    • preventing eviction
    • reducing family homelessness

Find Shelter (HUD)

  • Search feature helps locate:
    • Shelters
    • Food Pantries
    • Health Clinics
    • Clothing
  • Site includes links to:
    • Rental Assistance resources
    • Housing Counselors
    • Applying for a Housing Choice Voucher

Local Homeless Assistance (HUD)

  • By-state directory of services providing shelter and related help

Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program

  • Federal program helping individuals and families move into transitional and permanent housing
  • VA says CoCs “must serve all people experiencing homelessness, including Veterans ineligible for VA homeless programs and services.”
  • HUD says CoCs “should generally prioritize homeless Veterans that are not eligible for VA housing and services.”
  • To apply, contact your Local Public Housing Agency (PHA)


For information about employment services in your area, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline @ 1-877-424-3838.

Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services (HVCES)

  • Serves homeless and at-risk of homelessness Veterans
  • Vocational assistance, job development and placement, and ongoing supports
  • Formerly homeless, trained Veterans provide the services

Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program

  • Helps Veterans who have service-connected disabilities prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs

Compensated Work Therapy (CWT)

  • For homeless Veterans who:
    • are eligible for VA healthcare services
    • have a goal of returning to competitive employment
    • have barriers, like mental illness or physical impairments, to becoming and/or staying employed
  • Variety of help programs available:
    • Transitional Work (TW)
    • Supported Employment (SE)
    • Community Based Employment Services (CBES)
    • Supported Self-Employment (SSE)
    • Supported Education (SEd)
    • Vocational Assistance

Russ was living in his car when he sought help from the VA and participated in the CWT program. He tells his story in this video.


This 2021 VA infographic shows what the VA and its Federal, state, and local community partners have been doing to tackle the challenge of homelessness.

Article Sources

Benefits Gov. (n.d.). Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/5889

Benefits Gov. (n.d). Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Programs. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/301/#

Federal Register. (2021, September 27). Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers: Revised Implementation of the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2021/09/27/2021-20734/section-8-housing-choice-vouchers-revised-implementation-of-the-hud-veterans-affairs-supportive#p-43

Homeless Shelters Directory. (n.d.). Homeless Shelters. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.homelessshelterdirectory.org/

Just Shelter. (n.d.). Community Resources. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://justshelter.org/community-resources/

Know A Vet. (n.d.) Search Local VA Facilities.  Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.knowavet.org/search-local-va-facilities/

National Alliance to End Homelessness. (2019, March 18). What Housing First Really Means.  https://endhomelessness.org/blog/what-housing-first-really-means/

Shelter Listings. (n.d.). Homeless Shelters. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.shelterlistings.org/

United Way. (n.d.). 2-1-1 Get Connected Get Help. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.211.org/

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.hud.gov/

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (n.d.). Retrieved March 12, 2022, from HUD-VASH Vouchers: A Rental Assistance Program for Homeless Veterans. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/vash

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). VA Homeless Programs. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/NationalCallCenter.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Community Resource and Referral Centers (CRRCs). Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/Crrc.asp

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Directory of Veterans Service Organizations. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/vso/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. (n.d.). Find VA locations. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/find-locations/?facilityType=health

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