Victories made in Veteran Homelessness, hurdles remain in SC housing costs

Homelessness has declined 11% nationwide but challenges still exist in the Carolinas. It’s part of the reason advocates say the housing market is part of the battle.
Local organizations are working to find solutions for homelessness among veterans
Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 4:13 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - New data from the Department of Veterans Affairs finds veteran homelessness has declined 11% nationwide. The largest drop in five years. But in states like South Carolina, where one in 10 people are veterans, what do our numbers look like? It’s part of the reason advocates say the housing market is part of the battle.

We’re in the office of United Housing Connections CEO Loraine Crowl.

“The Upstate market is tough, it is tough,” Crowl said.

As a member of the Upstate Continuum of Care she sees and feels it.

“I can talk (a lot) about it,” she said.

She’s working with 100 organizations in 13 counties on the front lines of veteran homelessness.

“Affordability is relative,” she said. “What I can afford, what you can afford, and what everyone else can afford is honestly personal.”

Which is why on Tuesday the Upstate Continuum of Care including the Columbia VA Healthcare System, and Upstate Warrior Solution held a press conference to discuss victories in the war against homelessness.

“We’re not ending homelessness by any means, there will always be homeless veterans, but basically we’re creating a system and infrastructure so that any homeless veteran that comes into that system can be housed very quickly and transitional housing is not the final answer,” said Charlie Hall, upstate warrior solution president

Since 2018, the continuum’s Effective Zero program, which aims to make homelessness “brief, rare and nonrecurring” has assisted 700 veterans in the Upstate and Midlands. Additionally, more than 60% have been documented as permanently housed. And the 2022 goal to house over 323 veterans was met, but there’s still challenges ahead.

“There are only 128 veterans currently on our active waiting list for housing opportunity,” Crowl said “We believe the Effective Zero goal is achievable in Greenville county by the end of 2023. Our goal is to be the first community in our state to declare the battle has been won.”

But winning the battle according to Crowl isn’t this one coalitions problem, it’s a community problem that requires solutions from developers, property owners, the housing market and defining deeply affordable housing.

“Landlord engagement is one of the things that we really need to concentrate on in this community for just educating them on the number of people in this community that need housing,” Crowl said. “The number of Black and Brown people in this community, the number of marginalized populations like homeless individuals, that need housing, elderly people who sit on a fixed income of $1,000 a month. How in the world are they going to afford housing.”

Advocates like Crowl would also like to see more rent subsidies.

“If we’re going to continue to be competitive in market rate, then we need to build a subsidy program that’s like HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, more VASH vouchers.”

And this coalition is serious about being Effective Zero in 2023. The more property owners who partner, the steeper the reduction.

“If (the veteran needs) immediate housing, same day, that’s what my grant per diem program can provide,” said Sherry Martell, VA Homeless Program coordinator. “So that they’re not literally homeless anymore.”

If you are a veteran or if you know of a veteran experiencing homelessness call the official assistance line at 877-424-3838. It’s manned 24/7.

“Anybody can call that hotline,” Martell said.

“We got you,” Crowl added.

The VA is committed to ending homelessness among Veterans. If you are a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, we strongly encourage you to contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at (877) 4AID-VET (877-424-3838) for assistance.

Also, the VA cannot address this alone and needs landlords who are interested in housing veterans. To learn more visit