Housing with Supportive Services for Veterans

The Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that nearly 40,000 veterans were homeless as of January 2016—making up about 10 percent of all people experiencing homelessness.

To help, the government is converting unneeded federal property into supportive housing for some of these vets. Today’s WatchBlog takes you inside some of these properties and shares what the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to do to improve its supportive housing program.

: Iowa Avenue—Building 412, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Dayton, Ohio

(Photos of supportive housing in Dayton, Ohio. Excerpted from GAO-17-101)

Supportive housing

Three major health risks contribute to veteran homelessness: mental health problems, substance abuse, and chronic illnesses.

Supportive housing is widely recognized as a key solution for persistent veteran homelessness since it can provide services that address many of these problems.

Figure 3: Examples of Services Offered to Improve Veterans’ Health and Well-being at Supportive-Housing Enhanced-Use Leases

(Excerpted from GAO-17-101)

VA and HUD teamed up with private and not-for-profit partners to convert surplus federal property into supportive housing. This housing was created using “enhanced-use leases.” This type of housing provides vulnerable vets with a place to live on a VA medical campus—where they can access an array of community and medical services.

What does living on a VA medical center campus look like?

Here’s one in New Jersey:

Valley Brook Village Phase I, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Lyons, New Jersey

Another in Illinois:

Freedom’s Path I, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Hines, Illinois

And one in Minnesota:

Al Loehr Veterans and Community Studio Apartments, Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center, St. Cloud, Minnesota

(Photos excerpted from GAO-17-101)

Our interactive graphics show the location and status of these units, as well as each state’s population of homeless veterans, as illustrated below.

The Department of Veterans Affairs' 70 Enhanced-Use Leases, as of September 2016(Excerpted from GAO-17-101)

Future housing

VA plans to develop additional supportive-housing using enhanced-use leases. But we found that VA officials did not completely document their decision-making process for selecting properties to convert. This means that VA can’t build on lessons learned when identifying and developing future properties.

We also found that VA has some outdated policies. For example, it doesn’t specifically provide guidance on how to determine whether a proposed project meets the needs of homeless vets. We made recommendations to address both of these issues.

To learn more, check out our full report.


  • Questions on the content of this post? Contact David Wise at wised@gao.gov.
  • Comments on GAO’s WatchBlog? Contact blog@gao.gov.
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