State Launches First Veterans Rental Assistance Program

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA), in partnership with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ Affairs (ODVA), has launched the Veterans Rental Assistance Program, designed to provide transitional housing for military veterans who have serious mental illness and are homeless or at risk for homelessness.

The new program will provide funding for transitional housing to accommodate up to 147 veterans who do not have permanent homes in Clackamas, Marion, Columbia, Yamhill and Jackson counties. Transitional housing is a stable, but temporary, arrangement meant to help bridge the gap from homelessness to permanent housing.

“OHA is pleased to partner with the Oregon Department of Veterans’ affairs on this innovative and critical program,” said Karen Wheeler, integrated health programs director for OHA’s Health Systems Division.

OHA started the Rental Assistance Program in 2013 for individuals with serious mental illness, but this is the first time it has specifically targeted veterans. This year, OHA made $2.5 million available for veterans’ rental assistance and a similar program, which serves young adults who meet the eligibility criteria for serious mental illness and homelessness.

The programs will be administered with the help of several nonprofit agencies, which were granted funding by OHA and will provide a certain number of housing “slots” in the areas and populations they serve.

The partnering providers serving veterans are Clackamas County Housing, Clackamas County, 30 slots; Salem Housing Authority, Marion County, 42 slots; Medicine Wheel Recovery Services Inc., Columbia County, 40 slots; Transition Projects Inc., Yamhill County, 20 slots; and ColumbiaCare Services-Jackson, Jackson County, 15 slots (and an additional 15 slots for young adults).

“We know from our efforts supporting crisis services, including mobile crisis interventions, that veterans in Oregon are experiencing behavioral health challenges that are unique to their circumstances and we have been looking for ways to help,” Wheeler said.

Besides receiving rental subsidies, eligible individuals may receive assistance with moving costs. Residential housing specialists and peer support specialists are available to help individuals in becoming rent-ready and in locating, securing and maintaining a rental unit.

“This is something we’ve been working on for six months,” said Mitch Sparks, director of statewide veterans services for ODVA. “One of the things I love about this program is that it has a definitive support network built in to help guarantee success in finding permanent housing. It’s really a preventative measure for homelessness, designed to reduce the number of Oregon veterans who are out on the streets.”

The program will begin in October 2016.