City officials are looking for partnerships with landlords to put more than 200 veterans with housing vouchers in permanent homes.
Alex Forest, a father and Navy veteran, has lived and worked at Central Union Mission a little over a year. He shares a dorm-style suite for veterans and is ready to move on.
“If you’ve never been homeless before, it’s a culture shock,” Forest said. “After a while, I just realized there were two things I had to do: keep my integrity and keep my head up.”
Forest’s life took a turn four years ago when he lost his job and then wife from divorce. Struggling with an alcohol addiction at the time, he felt hopeless and turned to relatives for help.
“I’m not here looking for a hand out, but a hand up,” said Forest, who ended up at the shelter when living arrangements with his brother no longer worked.
A spokesperson for the city’s Department of Human Services (DHS) tells WUSA9 that 310 veterans experienced homelessness over the last few weeks. Of those 310, 206 veterans have a voucher for housing, but no place to move into.
“We have too many veterans living in our shelters, too many veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Carter Hewgley, a senior advisor at DHS. “While our goal would be to hit functional zero, which would mean housing about 68 veterans a month, we need more and more partners on the landlord side who are able to offer units.”
Forest expects to get his voucher through the city’s Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Program (VASH), which provides permanent housing for homeless veterans, next week. VASH is just one of a few programs offered. Applicants are required to be a DC resident who is chronically homeless and deemed eligible for a VASH voucher by the Department of Veteran Affairs. A vulnerability assessment survey must also be completed.
“I just want a decent home to live in,” said Forest, who is hopeful it will happen soon. “A home that my grandkids can visit.”
Forest hopes to move out of the shelter by Christmas.
If you are a landlord and would like to partner with DHS, you can contact officials at email@example.com.
For more information on the state of homeless in DC, Maryland and Virginia, take a look at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s latest report.