Homelessness generally and Veteran homelessness in particular has dropped sharply in Florida since 2010, when the annual Point-in-Time count identified 57,551 homeless people, including 6,497 Veterans, on a single night in January.
In October 2011, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs began funding community collaborations to deliver homelessness prevention and rapid rehousing resources to very low-income Veteran families through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, SSVF. Three nonprofit agencies receive SSVF funding to provide services to Broward and Miami-Dade County Veterans, including United Way, the Advocate Program, and Purpose Built Families Foundation’s Operation Sacred Trust collaboration.
The Operation Sacred Trust collaboration includes Carrfour Supportive Housing, PAIRS Foundation, and the University of Miami’s Health Law Clinic. It is among the largest SSVF programs in the state, serving more than 1,000 very low income Veteran families each year.
Services include case management, housing placements, benefits assistance, legal aid, family reconciliation, and resiliency training to help veterans strengthen vital relationships with family, friends and other social supports. The agency’s prevention and rapid rehousing services received three-year national accreditation this year from CARF International.
In FY 2017, Operation Sacred Trust helped 1,981 people in South Florida, including 1,513 adults and 468 children. Thirty six percent of those served were age 55 and older. Nineteen percent were children age 12 and under. Eighty seven percent of Veterans served by the program were male. Eighty percent served after the Vietnam War ended, including 17 percent during the Persian Gulf, and 21 percent post 9/11. Twenty seven percent served in a war zone.
Thanks to the program’s legal team, OST helped very low income South Florida Veterans receive $867,860 in new benefits during the year, including $237,691 in Social Security awards and $630,169 in VA compensation. Individual awards for back pay ranged from $2,400 to more than $100,000. Additionally, Operation Sacred Trust paid out more than $850,000 in temporary financial assistance for local Veteran families during the fiscal year. Funds went to prevent and end homelessness by making third-party payments for rental assistance, utilities, moving costs, security deposits, storage fees, emergency supplies, and other housing related expenses.
Working in close collaboration with Carrfour Supportive Housing, hundreds of Miami-Dade County Veterans and their family members have become residents of scarce affordable and supportive housing units. More than 90 percent of very low income families moving into Carrfour communities remain permanently housed, significantly as a result of Carrfour’s unique approach to combining quality affordable housing with a broad array of onsite supportive services. Founded by the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce in 1993, Carrfour has invested $300 million developing and operating permanent housing for formerly homeless residents of Miami-Dade County. For the first time in its 24-year history, Carrfour this year announced plans to open supportive housing communities in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
In Broward County, 30 percent of those receiving services reached Operation Sacred Trust sleeping in places not meant for human habitation versus 21 percent of Veterans entering the program in Miami-Dade. Seventeen percent of Miami-Dade Veterans were staying in emergency shelters when they began receiving program services.
More than 30 percent of Broward Veterans and one in four from Miami-Dade had zero income at the time they enrolled in Operation Sacred Trust.
When they completed the program, 35 percent of Broward Veterans were stably housed in rentals with no ongoing subsidies as were 20 percent of Miami-Dade Veterans. More than 36 percent of Miami-Dade Veterans were living in rentals with HUD-VASH or other ongoing housing subsidies versus 20 percent in Broward County. In both counties, 19 percent of Veterans exited the program into transitional housing.
Seven percent of Broward County program participants and five percent in Miami-Dade County continued to live in places not meant for human habitation even after receiving services.