Homeless Veterans Justice Initiative
Homeless Veterans Justice Initiative: Removing Legal Barriers to Benefits, Employment, Housing, Treatment and Services
President Obama and his Administration have pledged to end homelessness among veterans in 5 years. And with the recent creation of a new office, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs’ National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, the Administration is certainly moving in the right direction. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) approached the Commission in 2008-2009 to partner on three initiatives aimed at addressing homelessness among veterans: (1) fostering replication of Veterans Treatment Courts; (2) supporting the Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative; and (2) removing barriers to housing and self-sufficiency by addressing child support arrears. The Commission’s Homeless Veterans Justice Initiative aims to support the 5-Year Plans to End Homelessness among Veterans presently being implemented by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness and the VA by focusing on removing legal barriers—both civil and criminal—to benefits, employment, housing, treatment and services.
The Commission developed ABA policy in support of the creation of Veterans Treatment Courts which was approved by the ABA House of Delegates in February of 2010. The policy outlines a roadmap of guiding principles for jurisdictions interested in replicating this highly effective treatment court model which serves as a mechanism to prevent homelessness among vulnerable veterans. The Commission is showcasing Veterans Treatment Courts and the VA’s Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative through programming held at ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings as well as at national conferences hosted by the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The Commission is collaborating with the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Health and Human Services through its Office of Child Support Enforcement to resolve child support issues for Veterans who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Outstanding child support obligations serve as barriers to benefits, employment and housing. Through the interagency collaboration, ten communities across the country are participating in the pilot program. Veterans currently enrolled with VA specialized homeless services will be eligible for services. Initially, referrals will be generated by VA residential homeless programs, the VA’s Health Care for Reentry Veterans, or the VA’s soon to be established Supportive Services for Veterans Families. Drawing from this relatively stable population of homeless and at-risk veterans, who are connected to ongoing rehabilitation and support services, offers the continuity and motivation necessary for a successful resolution of child support issues. As this project develops and capacity increases, a local determination may be made to expand the target population to include additional groups of homeless and at-risk veterans from other referral sources.
For more information on the Child Support Initiative for Homelessness Veterans, click here.