HACN helping house homeless Native veterans via Tribal HUD-VASH
A homeless Native American veteran stands with a sign asking for help. Since 2016, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in Muskogee and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development has offered a housing voucher program for Native American veterans who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless. AL GRILLO/ASSOCIATED PRESS
U.S. Housing and Urban Development -Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing logo. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – Since 2016, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs in Muskogee and the U.S. Housing and Urban Development, has offered a housing program for Native American veterans who are homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.
A homeless veteran is defined as someone who is experiencing homelessness, at imminent risk of homelessness, or are at risk of homelessness, as defined by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act.
The program was first funded via a grant called Tribal HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing to work with tribes to house veterans. The CN received a $174,000 grant from HUD and has continued to receive the grant in that amount each year since the program’s inception.
The program is a collaborative effort between HUD and VA with the help of the HACN.
“Cherokee Nation, along with the other four tribes in Oklahoma that are participating in the program, have worked very hard over the past three years to house as many homeless veterans that we can,” Jerri Killer HACN housing management director, said. “Those tribes combined have been able to house hundreds of veterans with this program.”
Other tribes working with tribal HUD-VASH are the Cheyenne-Arapaho Tribe, Choctaw Nation, Osage Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation.
To qualify, one must be a citizen of a federally recognized tribe, a veteran and be eligible for veteran health care services. As part of eligibility determination, VA case managers will look at the length of service and type of discharge of the veteran.
“To apply for the Tribal HUD-VASH program, the veteran would begin that process with the VA case manager. She will determine the veteran’s eligibility for the program and refer him or her back to us for the housing piece,” Killer said.
Killer added that when a veteran is eligible for the program, they seek their own housing and the HACN will make the rental or monthly payments.
She said as of Dec. 9, more than 30 veterans have received help finding housing with the HACN, with several graduating out the program after becoming self-sufficient.
The program, which is still a pilot program, is in the works to become more permanent.
“There is current legislation being considered that would move the Tribal HUD-VASH program from a demonstration program to a permanent program,” Killer said. “When that happens, there will additional funding available for more tribes across the country to participate and for those of us who are already participating to apply for more funding and vouchers.”
Each year the program is funded, the HACN receives vouchers to help 20 veterans.
“Word-of-mouth is our best method to reach as many veterans as we can. If anyone knows a veteran who may benefit, please let us know so we can try to get them assistance,” she said.
For information, call 918-456-5482.