Rowan County Housing Authority wins vouchers to help homeless vets

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Housing Authority has received official notification that it has received 20 vouchers worth $98,547 toward providing housing for homeless veterans and their families.
The vouchers come from the Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Administration Supported Housing Program.
Only two other housing authorities in North Carolina were awarded the HUD-VASH vouchers: the Wilmington Housing Authority, 15 vouchers; and Durham Housing Authority, 10.
Nationwide, 1,120 vouchers totaling more than $7.8 million were awarded to 41 public housing agencies.
The Rowan County Housing Authority’s receipt of 20 vouchers is on top of 35 HUD-VASH vouchers initially awarded to the agency in 2008, when it was one of the first nationwide to lease up the entire number of vouchers.
Vouchers were utilized for eligible single homeless veterans and eligible homeless veterans with families.
Rodney Cress, a local veterans advocate and former vice chairman of the Rowan County Housing Authority, worked closely with Executive Director Sara Potts in making application for those original 35 vouchers.
On Nov. 27, 2012, the Rowan County Housing Authority partnered with the Hefner VA Medical Center to submit a new HUD-VASH Implementation Plan for 2013 “to address targeting, retention, expedited leasing process and other strategies to overcome the challenge of relapse for the chronically homeless.”
That plan was submitted to Washington with the agency’s formal application for 20 vouchers.
The Rowan County Housing Authority now adminsters 653 Section 8 vouchers, 598 Housing Choice vouchers and 55 HUD-VASH vouchers specifically for homeless veterans.
“The local need for housing by homeless veterans continues to increase as evidenced by the number of emails, telephone calls and inquiries we receive on a weekly basis,” Potts said in a news release.
According to HUD’s estimate on a single night in January 2012, a total of 69,619 veterans were homeless in the United States.
Essential components of HUD-VASH are housing and long-term case management.
Veterans must meet the McKinney Act’s definition of homelessness to be eligible for the program. Those requirements include:
• An individual who lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence, or;
• An individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised shelter, a place providing temporary residence for someone intended to be institutionalized or a public or private place not ordinarily meant as accommodation for human beings.
Veterans in the voucher program must be eligible for VA health care. The VA determines eligibility.
Both HUD and the VA use the “chronically homeless” definition as amended by the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2012.
Under this definition, a chronically homeless household is one that has experienced homelessness for at least a year or on at least four separate occasions in the last three years and has a head of household with a disability.
Once a veteran is made eligible by the VA, he or she is referred to the housing authority, which determines eligibility based on income limits, issues the voucher and provides the veteran with a list of eligible properties for rent.
Because they are homeless, inspections of properties selected by veterans are given priority.
The average turn-around time once the veteran is referred to the housing authority up until the date the property is inspected and the veteran is housed is three to five days.
Five people comprise the Rowan County Housing Authority Board of Commissioners, including Mac Butner as chairman and Olin Miles as vice chairman.
The housing authority has 15 employees, including the executive director, public housing, Section 8 and maintenance staff.