County effort connects 46 vets to housing and supportive services

Staff Report

Following the completion of the 100-Day Challenge to reduce youth homelessness in Santa Barbara County, the Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County Continuum of Care and local stakeholders launched another 100-Day Challenge to reduce homelessness, this time among veterans in the county. On any given night in the county, more than 150 veterans are experiencing homelessness. 

The Santa Barbara County team established a goal to connect half of this population, or 75 veterans, to safe and stable housing, as well as supportive services. Consideration was given to servicing the scope of needs, some of whom have families. At Day 100, the team made significant progress toward its goals: 46 veterans were connected to safe and stable housing and supportive services, and the team continues to work toward its initial goals. 

“The 100-Day Challenge was a fantastic opportunity for a group of cross-sector stakeholders to re-examine their models and implementation processes of housing veterans experiencing homelessness,” said Kathy Simas, retired Santa Barbara Foundation North County director. “Our key takeaways include better practices for information-sharing among organizations and improving their cohesiveness, plus we identified strategies that require additional attention. The ultimate result is that in a short period of time 46 veterans were housed, and we have a commitment to continue collaborating to provide safe and stable housing and support for more veterans to live a happy and healthy life.”

Following the 100-Day Challenge, team members debriefed to share their experiences and reflect on additional outcomes, such as developing regional landlord engagement practices, surveying veterans to assess needs and develop resources, continuation of veterans-specific Coordinated Entry System case conferencing and regular integration of Criteria and Benchmarks for Achieving the Goal of Ending Veteran Homelessness, using data to help problem-solve, and helping colleagues think through challenges and barriers while taking time to celebrate successes. 

The team also identified roadblocks and barriers to overcome, such as small teams have limited time to engage and devote to the challenge, lack of participation from some key partners, aligning milestones with the overall goal, and data reporting. The team will prioritize system shifts through key insights gained during the challenge to expand access to resources through provider training and role clarification, continue data-informed decision-making, strengthen support for Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program providers and concretize informal relationships, increase and amplify voices of veterans who have experienced homelessness, and shift resources to retention.

To preserve the gains made during the 100 days and maintain momentum around preventing and ending veteran homelessness, the team proposed actions to sustain the performance demonstrated during the challenge: quarterly landlord engagement sessions, improvement of veterans-specific case conferences, support of the Santa Barbara County Veterans Collaborative set to launch in 2021, and deploy and analyze the needs survey developed during the challenge.