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Community comes together to understand homelessness in Helena

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News from the Montana VA Health Care System

HELENA — Montana VA Health Care System (Montana VA) is participating in today’s national and statewide Point-in-Time (PIT) count. The PIT count, led by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), is a count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness on a single night in January. Across the county and Montana, each count is planned, coordinated, and carried out locally.

In Helena, VA staff will be gathering with about 25 local community members. The PIT Count is among the ways VA estimates the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness. This information is used to help direct resources based on need.

“Each Veteran and each Montanan deserve the dignity of safe, secure, permanent housing. People who experience homelessness reflect so many different stories, identities, personalities, and histories. No two individuals had the same journey to homelessness, and no two individuals had the same needs when exiting homelessness,” said Montana VA’s Homeless Program Manager, Adrian Spencer. “For us to find solutions to make sure every Veteran has housing, we must make sure every Veteran and Montanan who do not have shelter is represented as we work to make sure each of our community members have secure housing.”

In Montana, there was a 56.4% increase in Veterans who were homeless from 2021 (110) to 2022 (172), based upon the PIT count. In 2022, Montana VA was able to help 211 Veterans secure housing. Unfortunately, it is anticipated that more Veterans and others in Montana’s communities will experience homelessness in 2023 due to housing shortages and rising housing costs.

Resources exist to help Veterans secure housing. Some of these Montana VA resources include:

- Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless due to financial hardship, unemployment, addiction, depression, or transition from jail can contact the Montana VA Homeless Program at (406) 447-6144 or (406) 373-3927.  Available support includes:

- Immediate food and shelter, including both transitional and permanent housing,

- Job training, life skills development, and education,

- Support with justice system navigation and community re-entry from jail,

- Financial support to prevent homelessness,

- Treatment for addiction and depression, and

- Health and dental care.

- Veterans may be eligible for financial housing assistance through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. The HUD-VASH program combines Section 8 rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by Montana VA. These vouchers cover a percentage of a Veteran’s rental costs. Most HUD-VASH participants rent from private landlords and partnerships with public and private housing providers is essential to the success of this program.  

- Veterans experiencing homelessness can call also 877-4AID VET (or 877-424-3838) to connect with a trained VA staff member 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

 One-third of Montana VA’s HUD-VASH vouchers for Veterans remain unused by local landlords. If filled, these unused vouchers could represent stable housing for 187 Montana Veterans at risk for homelessness. Landlords who are interested in helping Veterans find stable housing through HUD-VASH vouchers can call (406) 447-6000 and ask for the Homeless Program to learn more.

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