A message about Grant and Per Diem

A Message about Grant and Per Diem
From NCHV Executive Director, Baylee Crone
As you head to the polls this Election Day, NCHV thought you might need something to read while you wait in line:
Good afternoon partners in service,
We need to talk about the Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program.
If you have GPD, you’ve been hearing a lot about bridge housing and the pending reboot. We know you’ve been working hard with your program staff and community partners to figure out exactly how your GPD fits into the coordinated entry system and your community’s efforts to reach an effective end to homelessness among veterans based on the Federal Criteria and Benchmarks for Ending Homelessness Among Veterans published by USICH in October 2015. We know you likely have a lot of questions, and while we don’t have all of the answers, we do want to make you aware of everything we know about the potential changes to the program and what is coming down the pipeline.
As a recap: We’ve been hearing from VA for over a year now that a GPD “reboot” is coming. In fact, they talked about it at the NCHV Housing Summit in November 2015, the NCHV Annual Conference in May 2016, and on the GPD provider call in July 2016. While we don’t know exactly what this reboot will look like (and nobody will, until the NOFA comes out), we can make a few educated guesses about what will be included, and what your agency and community partners can do to prepare for the application process.
While we don’t know what’s going to be in the NOFA, we have been able to identify a few common themes from what we’ve heard from VA in their public comments on the “reboot”:
First, GPD isn’t going away…
In case you missed our recent Hill Watch, for this fiscal year the VA asked for $247 million for GPD, and we pushed hard to get a $257 million appropriation. Unlike HUD’s Transitional Housing (TH), which was largely reallocated to other housing interventions in the recent CoC funding cycle, VA’s GPD money must be spent on the GPD program; this means that, at least through this Administration, we know the program is not going away (more on that below).
…but, it will likely be reallocated
We know we have the funding for GPD this year, and we know a competitive reboot NOFA is likely coming. Taken together, we can assume that a GPD reboot will mean a reallocation of existing GPD resources to where they are needed most. We do not expect this competitive process to cut down the program nationally, but it could mean some communities and programs lose funding while others gain funding. We won’t know exactly what is in the NOFA until it comes out, but organizations with long histories of GPD service, a commitment to being part of the local community effort, and strong outcomes in helping homeless veterans access stable, safe, permanent housing and improved incomes are likely to be more competitive.
And, it may be time limited
When you first applied for GPD, there was no time limit on your award. The new NOFA may include time limited awards, which we can guess may be between one to three years (possibly more), with options for renewal. Again, we won’t know exactly how this will work until the NOFA comes out. But, right now you can plan for a time limited award by preparing to update your original application. Depending on how long ago you received your GPD award, this original scope may be severely out of date. See below for some input on rethinking that scope.
It never hurts to be prepared! Let’s take a look at what you may need to do to be competitive in a new NOFA:
You need to be ready to show your results
Your organization has had GPD funds for a long time, but how do you tell your agency’s story of change for individual homeless veterans? How does your agency fit into your community’s efforts to end or sustain an end to veteran homelessness? We can guess that the NOFA will include a few core elements that can guide how you structure the story of your results. These elements may include a focus on: placement rate into permanent housing, lower-barrier access, Housing First principles and bridge housing, and reduced length of stay. If your program serves veterans who are incredibly high need, you have tracks in your agency or community, or you have some other unique program model offering specialized services, be ready to quantify how that leads to long-term housing stability for veterans who come through your GPD.   
You need to be prepared to update your old application
Depending on how long you’ve had GPD, your original scope of work may be outdated. The CoC structure for your community has likely shifted considerably, so how has this impacted your services and the needs in your community? If your CoC lost a significant number of TH resources and you still have high numbers of homeless veterans, you may be able to make the case for additional GPD beds for your program. Has your GPD already changed to be responsive to the CoC and other community shifts, like the surge of SSVF funds? If so, draw up a list of changes you have made to fit into the new context of services, and if not, draw up a list of ways that you could better fit into that new context. Has the population of homeless and at-risk veterans changed in your area? If so, write up how you have changed as a program to better serve these new populations. Be prepared to use tools like the VA Gaps Analysis Tool, the local Master List and other HMIS/HOMES data to support your plans.

To help us maintain the program for the long-term, we need you to quantify and share your results
We know that GPD is a vital asset for veterans and for your community. Whether your program is more treatment-oriented or is focused on a short-term bridge model, or somewhere in between, you are part of a program that helps the majority of veterans it serves achieve independent permanent housing. This is a powerful result! Quantifying this result, and using it to “sell” the strength of your program as part of your local CoC will allow us to make sure that the GPD program continues to be a pillar of the VA’s response to veteran homelessness for Administrations and Congresses to come.

So, what can you do right now to be ready?
Start outlining how your agency fits into your community
Your agency has a GPD grant, but you’re now being asked to think of your GPD within the context of your community. This is incredibly challenging work. Does your agency already develop housing plans in coordination with every veteran and other local housing resources? If so, how can you utilize that process to document client choice, early and continuously, for veterans in your GPD? We have some new concepts in our GPD lexicon, so it’s good to know what they mean and to use them in your reporting. Words like “bridge housing”, “diversion”, and “service-intensive transitional housing”, might not roll off the tongue, but they are likely to show up in the NOFA, so now is the time to get to know them.
Know (and share) the facts (and only the facts)
Any time a program shifts, the community gets a flood of useless or damaging information. A lot of people are trying to fill in details that we simply don’t have yet about what the reboot means for individual communities and what will be in the NOFA. Don’t let false information mislead you or your community partners, and let’s stick to the facts when driving individual agency changes. Take a look at the input we sent you back in December of 2015. Here it is again. This gives a little guidance on how to think through lowered barriers and bridge housing in your agency. It is a place to start.
Speaking of “just the facts”: gather all the data you can
If the NOFA comes unexpectedly, you may only have a short time to submit a request for funding. As anyone who has written a grant application will know, these things take time to do well. You may not have the time then to think of what data best represents your program, or to gather it. So, do it now! Think about things like your occupancy numbers, your lengths of stay, and the outcomes veterans coming through your program. What are you most proud of? Quantify that to show your results.  Consider your community as a whole; how many veterans are on your Master List and what does that tell you about your role in the ending homelessness locally? What are you inflow and outflow numbers? What sorts of needs profiles are you seeing for veterans presenting for care? How does this process play out with local coordinated entry systems and diversion protocols, where they exist? Use multiple data sources, including your own, to build a compelling argument for local need based firmly on the data you can gather and present. In short, quantify your local need – now.
Push your local community partners to drive to the next step
We’ve said this many times, because we’ve heard it too many times. If someone tells you that your GPD program is the “problem” in your community, or that your GPD is keeping your community from reaching an effective end to homelessness among veterans, we suggest two steps: first, check your own program and your agency philosophy to make sure you’ve been at the table and open to adapting to what your community needs, and second, ask those partners to dig deeper with you to identify where the real challenge is. For example, we often find that the issue with outflow is less about GPD length of stay than it is about having available landlords to rent to veterans in a GPD. Ask your partners to go through the exercise of mapping out where else the bottleneck in stable placement for some veterans might be. Find ways to leverage SSVF and other housing navigators to alleviate those bottlenecks and challenges.
Take full advantage of the one-on-one help that’s out there
Use it now, before the NOFA comes! Make sure bridge housing makes sense to you: lowered barriers to entry, possibly shorter term stays, but also means documented housing placement intervention is on the table for that veteran when they start the program. Want to learn more about bridge? Contact the GPD Program Office at VHATAMGRANTANDPERDIEM@va.gov or use their toll free number: 877-332-0334. Don’t want to call VA? Are you part of Built for Zero? Call your collaborative lead, coach, or email Leslie Wise at lwise@cmtysolutions.org. Part of Vets@Home? Call your Vets@Home TA Provider, or email Susan Starrett at susan.starrett@csh.org. Not sure where to turn? Email Josh at jstewart@nchv.org! We’ll try to hook you up with a mentor.