MDHA and partners exceed expectations

The Metro Dallas Homeless Alliance (MDHA) announced today that working with the Dallas housing authority, DHA, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and other homeless response system partners, 140 Dallas and Collin County homeless veterans ended their homelessness during its Veterans Challenge. MDHA and its partners launched this new initiative on May 1, 2019, in response to the recent rise in veteran homelessness in the two counties. The January 2019 homeless count, conducted by MDHA, saw the number of homeless veterans increase by 100, from 331 to 431 (11.3% of all homeless individuals). The idea of the Veterans Challenge was for MDHA to challenge itself, its partners, and the Dallas community at large to come together to house, at least, 100 veterans in 100 days.

The main vehicle used to house the veterans was the HUD-VASH housing voucher. HUD-VASH stands for Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing, a partnership between the VA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). HUD provides housing vouchers, through local housing authorities like DHA, and the VA provides case management and other services. As of August 15, 2019, at the close of the challenge, 105 veterans had moved into their new homes, using such vouchers, 25 had voucher contracts pending, and 10 had moved into housing using other homeless response system resources.

Each veteran must complete a five-step process, in order to end their homelessness through the HUD-VASH program:

  • Attend an “admissions event” at the VA, to have their status verified;
  • Visit with DHA to have their voucher issued;
  • Find a property where they can rent a unit, and be accepted by that property;
  • Have the unit inspected and pass DHA muster;
  • DHA and the property sign a contract.

Though the DHA and VA teams are well versed in these protocols, both teams shared that the Veterans Challenge helped them develop better lines of communication and problem-solving capabilities and work more smoothly together.

VA and DHA team leaders were effusive in their descriptions of how the other team made the challenge a success. Twyanna Nichols, the VA’s HUD-VASH Dallas Program Manager said, “DHA went above and beyond to expedite processes to get our veterans out of the shelters and off the streets as soon as possible, with extra attention to our most vulnerable veterans. Cindy Rios, DHA’s Housing Services Manager, took time out of her busy schedule to meet one on one with veterans, listen to their concerns and reach out to whoever she needed to to house them. Without the time, care, hard work and compassion of Cindy and her entire team, meeting this challenge would not have been possible.”

Rios, in turn, said, “Twyanna and her team have long shown their commitment to and passion for housing veterans. She is in constant contact with us, at DHA, to assist veterans in meeting their housing needs. She and her team are never satisfied with just the issuance of a voucher; they stay with the veteran throughout their housing search until the key is in the door. The percentage of housed HUD-VASH voucher holders is usually around 80%, and before the challenge stood at 82%. Through the VA team’s diligence, our improved lines of communication as a result of the challenge, and the active facilitation of MDHA’s team led by Shavon Moore, we raised that percentage to a record 89%.”

Moore, MDHA’s Vice President of Programs, who led the challenge, extolled both partners’ roles in the success of the challenge, and added, “We could not have done this, without our landlords. They really stepped up to the plate.” Though, under Dallas city ordinance, it is illegal to refuse to accept a veteran’s housing voucher, with the current Dallas rental housing market occupancy rate, it is still a challenge to find housing. During the challenge the partners not only worked closely with landlords, but also held two “Landlord Fairs” at DHA. At these fairs, veterans could receive their HUD-VASH vouchers, and then meet with property managers, without even leaving the DHA building.

Other community partners were key to the success of the challenge too. Faith Forward Dallas at Thanksgiving Square provided the veterans with move-in kits. Veterans were enrolled in MDHA’s partnership program with DART, which allows those experiencing homelessness to purchase DART passes for 50% off. Project ID helped veterans obtain critical documents, necessary to access housing.

Financial supporters also did their part. Specifically, during the months of the Veterans Challenge, these supporters committed funds to support the MDHA Flex Fund.

  • King Foundation – $60,000
  • Perot Foundation – $65,000
  • United Way of Metropolitan Dallas – $20,000
  • Walmart Foundation (Sam’s Club #8242) – $500
  • USAA Foundation – $12,000
  • Anonymous Foundation – $9,000 (Challenge grant unlocked through the USAA Foundation grant)

These contributions helped and will continue to help MDHA pay for minor but impactful expenditures that can help individuals end their homelessness. The last two contributions are set aside for veterans’ use only.

With the success of the Veterans Challenge, MDHA and its partners will now hold such a challenge twice a year. In the meantime, MDHA leadership will analyze this last challenge, so its lessons may be applied during the next one and throughout the year. Carl Falconer, MDHA’s President and CEO, highlights what he thinks the clearest lesson is, already: “We know that with enough resources and collaboration we can end homelessness. We have shown it is working for our veterans. The community can and should decide to make the same commitment for every homeless person.”


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