A survey of homeless veterans in Riverside County in January found a 4 percent reduction among those living on the streets or in encampments, compared to a survey of the county’s entire homeless population one year ago. The overall number of homeless veterans, however, rose from 285 in January 2013 to 290 in January 2014. The 1 percent increase is due largely to the number of veterans living in emergency or transitional shelters. (Attached to this release is a comparison of homeless veterans in 2013 and 2014 and a copy of the full survey results.)
The Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) is required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to conduct a biennial count of homeless people living on streets, in abandoned buildings, at freeway overpasses and underpasses, in vehicles, encampments and other areas. The survey is done at a “point-in-time” in the early morning on a specific date in late January and hundreds of community volunteers assist with the count every other year.
In 2014, an off-year for the federally mandated count -- Riverside County was one of only 16 communities nationwide selected to conduct a special point-in-time count of homeless veterans. This effort was funded through a unique partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and HUD to determine the progress of the 16 cities/counties in achieving the Obama Administration’s priority goal to end homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015.
The survey of homeless veterans was done as part of the VALOR Task Force (Veterans Assistance Leadership of Riverside County), created by the county’s Board of Supervisors in May 2013 to honor, support and assist veterans with quality-of-life issues such as homelessness, healthcare, education and job training. More than 150 volunteers representing community-based groups serving veterans, homeless service providers, faith-based groups, county agencies, city governments, law enforcement, school districts, cities and others participated in the count on the morning of January 29.
A housing sub-committee of the VALOR Task Force was created with the short-term goal of finding permanent housing for 285 homeless veterans, the number identified in the 2013 point-in-time count. To date, the housing sub-committee, led by the County of Riverside Housing Authority, has permanently housed more than 400 homeless veterans.
"The county has worked hard to house homeless veterans, and we will find ways to do even more," said Supervisor John Tavaglione, co-chair of the task force. "We owe them so much for their sacrifice and service. It is our turn to serve them."
Susan Von Zabern, director of DPSS, said that, “Through VALOR, we will continue to work with our county, city and community partners to focus additional resources for veterans who are at-risk of homelessness and/or are currently homeless.”
This will include a VALOR-sponsored two-day Stand Down for homeless veterans at the Perris Fairgrounds October 18-19. The Stand Down is modeled after a concept used during the Vietnam War to provide a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations. Troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. The Riverside County Stand Down will bring a variety of services to one location to make it easier for homeless veterans to access medical and dental care, clothing, haircuts, VA services, housing, food, shelter and other resources.
In addition to the Stand Down, von Zabern said, a new pilot program is being planned to create a coordinated intake system for housing and services in western Riverside County to help streamline referrals for the most vulnerable homeless veterans and quickly link them with housing available in the county.
Supervisor Jeff Stone, co-chair of the VALOR Task Force, lauded the countywide effort to help homeless veterans.
"We are fortunate in Riverside County to have had so many veterans serve our country and sacrifice on our behalf. It's only fitting that we help them now in their time of need," he said.
The Riverside County 2014 Homeless Veterans Count and Survey full report is available on the County of Riverside Department of Public Social Services website (www.dpss.co.riverside.ca.us), or at http://dpss.co.riverside.ca.us/files/pdf/hp/hp-2014-riv-co-homeless-veterans-count-and-survey-final.pdf