How Revamped Housing Programs Alter Homeless Veteran Outcomes

How Revamped Housing Programs Alter Homeless Veteran Outcomes

Penn's Dennis Culhane on WHYY 'Radio Times' Show

The six-year-old Obama Administration effort to eradicate veteran-related homelessness by the end of 2015 was the subject of WHYY Radio Times interview with LDI Senior Fellow Dennis Culhane.

Toward that goal in 2009, the federal government created the National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans (NCHAV), headquartered it in Philadelphia, and greatly boosted funding for research designed to find better ways to systematically provide both short-term and long-term housing to its target population.

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Dennis Culhane, PhD, Penn Professor, Director of Research at the VA's National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, and LDI Senior Fellow.

Culhane, PhD, is Director for Research at the NCHAV along with being a Professor of Social Work at the Penn School of Social Policy & Practice; Psychology at Perelman School of Medicine; and Policy Research and Evaluation at the Graduate School of Education.

The move toward 'Housing First'
"For many years," he told Radio Times Executive Director and host Marty Moss-Coane, "the philosophy guiding homeless programs was very much a '12-step, clean and sober oriented' one. People were expected to go through a series of steps to prove they were worthy of getting into a housing program and, unfortunately, a lot of them couldn't make it up those steps."

He said so few people were able to make that climb, that programs  like his flipped the concept, focusing on getting homeless veterans stable housing first and then working on the other health and substance programs they needed to complete their reintegration into society.

"It has worked out incredibly successfully," Culhane said. "People who had been on the street for many years -- and were viewed as being unlikely to ever qualify for housing because of their behavior -- have ended up succeeding, getting engaged in the health services they need, becoming good neighbors and otherwise defying what had been the conventional wisdom."