GPD Transitional Housing Program
for Homeless Veterans
The GAO did a study of the Grant and Per Diem Program in 2005 and reported it in late 2006. The information below came chiefly from that study – a 59 page PDF file.
The Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD)–VA’s major transitional housing program for homeless veterans–spent about $67 million in fiscal year 2005. It became VA’s largest program for homeless veterans after fiscal year 2002, when VA began to increase GPD program capacity and phase out national funding for the more costly contracted residential treatment-another of VA’s transitional housing programs. To operate the GPD program at the local level, nonprofit and public agencies compete for grants. The program provides two basic types of grants-capital grants to pay for the buildings that house homeless veterans and per diem grants for the day-to-day operational expenses.
Capital grants cover up to 65 percent of housing acquisition, construction, or renovation costs and require that agencies receiving the grants cover the remaining costs through other funding sources. Generally, agencies that have received capital grants are considered for subsequent per diem grants, so that the VA investment can be realized and the buildings can provide operational beds.
Per diem grants support the operations of about 300 GPD providers nationwide. The per diem grants pay a fixed dollar amount for each day an authorized bed is occupied by an eligible veteran up to the maximum number of beds allowed by the grant. Generally under this grant, VA does not pay for empty beds.
VA makes payments after an agency has housed the veteran, on a cost reimbursement basis, and the agency may use the payments to offset operating costs, such as staff salaries and utilities. By law, the per diem reimbursement cannot exceed a fixed rate, which was $29.31 per person per day in 2006. Reimbursement may be lower for providers receiving funds for the same purpose from other sources.
On a limited basis, special needs grants are available to cover the additional costs of serving women, frail elderly, terminally ill, or chronically mentally ill veterans. Although the primary focus of the GPD program is housing, grants may also be used for transport or to operate daytime service centers that do not provide overnight accommodations.
According to VA, in fiscal year 2005, GPD grants supported about 75 vans that were used to conduct outreach and transport homeless veterans to medical and other appointments. Also, 23 service centers were operating with GPD support.
Most GPD providers have 50 or fewer beds available for homeless veterans, with the majority of providers having 25 or fewer. Accommodations vary and may range from rooms in multistory buildings in the inner city to rooms in detached homes in suburban residential neighborhoods. Veterans may sleep in barracks-style bunk beds in a room shared by several other participants or may have their own rooms.
In fiscal year 2005, VA had the capacity to house about 8,000 veterans on any given night. However, over the course of the year, because some veterans completed the program in a matter of months and others left before completion, VA was able to admit about 16,600 veterans into the program.
Oldtimer’s Comments: The GAO found that the VA’s GPD program was the VA’s largest homeless program beginning in 2005, spending $67 million on 194,000 veterans, a whopping 94 cents a day per homeless veteran – you can’t buy a vet a cup of coffee for that. It assigned a van to outreach more than 2500 homeless vets per van. It provided support to 23 service centers with an average of 25 or fewer beds, something like 600 beds total while in actuality much of the money went to vans and administrative costs, so the figure per vet is quite low.
The curious thing about the chart above, provided by the GAO, is the sudden disconnect between 2003 and 2004. A sudden loss of 121,000 homeless vets in one year! The VA says it “improved its counting methods,” now relying on the Continuum of Care program under HUD. The CoC program is a count of all homeless. Unfortunately, there is no consistent query relating to veterans in their survey. There is no consistant directive requiring VA centers to use a particular counting method. The GAO says that, “in 2005, more than twice as many local VA officials used HUD counts as was the case in 2003.” That indicates some do and some don’t. No one knows within tens of thousands how many homeless veterans there are.
Considering The VA has capacity to house 8000 veterans on any given night in 2005, the other 186,000 homeless veterans on those same nights had to fend for themselves. Considering that 8000 beds times $29.31 per night means the VA should have spent $85 million on the bedded veterans over a year’s time, but could not as they only had $67 million to spend, much of which went to the vans and overhead. Obviously there were considerable empty beds during the year due to underfunding or inefficient turnover in available beds.
More on this report later.
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