With $1.5 billion from the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, HUD also started a Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which is designed to help keep its clients from relapsing into homelessness after an initial burst of government support. The VA has modeled its own veteran-specific Supportive Services for Veterans Families program after the success of HUD’s HPRP.
The joint initiative has developed its own military vernacular. When Johnston’s staff at HUD compares notes with field workers and local officials, they do so at a “boot camp.” And one of the VA’s most visible outreach events is a series of “Stand Downs” at which homeless veterans receive services from legal advice to haircuts.
Angell, Pape and Dougherty recently attended a Stand Down in San Diego, which marked the 25th anniversary of the first such event. Angell, for her part, volunteered at a kiosk distributing free clothing. “Even at this level,” she said proudly, “you do have those opportunities where you can directly serve a homeless veteran.”
Angell, whose father and uncles served in the Army, Navy and Marines, has settled in Arlington after many years spent bouncing among Hawaii, Florida, Arizona and her native California.
After her first close encounter with homeless veterans as a social worker in San Jose, Angell earned a doctorate in marital and family therapy and moved back and forth between California and Hawaii managing a growing number of veterans’ health facilities throughout the Pacific coast and islands. In 2000, she advanced to a series of associate directorships that took her to St. Petersburg, Fla., and Long Beach, Calif.. She then spent three and a half years directing a medical center in Prescott, Ariz., before taking on her position in Washington.
Johnston grew up in Salt Lake City, where he was an Eagle Scout as a youth. Today he lives in Fredericksburg with his wife and five children.
After completing his assignment at the White House in the 1980s, Johnston returned to the USDA just as the department was looking to join the fight against homelessness. “I was the new guy on the block,” Johnston said. “They said, ‘Well, there’s this temporary issue called homelessness, and you’re the Agriculture Department lead. Good luck with that.’ ”
From that early effort Johnston moved to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. He transferred to HUD in 1990.
Although Obama has injected anti-homelessness efforts with fresh energy and resources, VA’s Dougherty said his colleagues’ campaign is not dependent on any one administration.
“Every secretary that’s been here has had an interest and a desire to help veterans who are homeless, and to help their homelessness end,” he said. “The difference is that we now have a momentum that has occurred that is almost an unstoppable force.”