On the morning of Super Bowl Sunday while most Americans are gearing up to enjoy the big game, 25 homeless Veterans in Phoenix are attending a housing briefing to receive a voucher for rental assistance for an apartment of their choice in the community. These 25 men and women were among the 1,266 Veterans that received services at the Arizona StandDown Friday through Sunday, February 3-5, at the Phoenix Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Arizona StandDown is an annual three day event that brings together the Valley’s homeless and at-risk military veterans to connect them with services in one location. Available services include VA health care and mental health services, clothing, meals, IDs and drivers licenses, court services and legal assistance, showers and haircuts, emergency shelter, transitional and permanent housing and much more.

Of the 1,266 Veterans served at StandDown this year, over 800 identified as currently being homeless; sleeping outside, in emergency shelter or in transitional housing. These homeless Veterans completed the Vulnerability Index at the StandDown as the culmination of survey efforts for Project H3 Vets, the community collaboration led by the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness to identify and prioritize for permanent housing the most medically vulnerable homeless Veterans in Maricopa County.

One permanent housing resource available to eligible homeless Veterans is the HUD-VASH program. HUD-VASH is a supportive housing program that provides Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers together with case management from the VA. HOM, Inc., is contracted with the City of Phoenix Housing Department to lease up new allocations of HUD-VASH vouchers. In an amazing display of collaboration and innovation, several partner agencies and organizations came together over the past few months to coordinate an effort so that the most vulnerable homeless Veterans identified at the StandDown could be screened for eligibility for HUD-VASH and attend a housing briefing at the conclusion of the StandDown – today, on Super Bowl Sunday.

This morning our staff is joined by Phoenix VA HUD-VASH Case Managers, Community Bridges Navigators, City of Phoenix Human Services employees and the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness in serving these men and women who served our country. In addition to the HUD-VASH briefing, Veterans are completing the process to obtain assistance for security deposits through the HPRP program thanks to our friends at the City of Phoenix Human Services Department. The Veterans will be assisted by Community Bridges Navigators and VA Case Managers in searching for an apartment in the community to use their voucher in the coming days, but these Veterans will not return to the streets or shelter in the mean time. They’ll go straight from our office this morning to an apartment community where furnished apartments are offered as “bridge” housing until they have secured their permanent homes with their vouchers, which will be a matter of days, not weeks. This whole process is nothing short of miraculous, and our team is incredibly proud to be a small part of the effort.

It’s kind of fitting that the Patriots and Giants are playing in the Super Bowl today. We have a number of giants in our community working tirelessly together to end homelessness for these patriots once and for all. I’m rooting for both of them.