RISERISE VA is a HUD funded Dekalb County Continuum of Care Permanent Supportive Housing program that was originally started in Dec. 2012. CaringWorks adopted the program from another non-profit agency in 2019 and all existing clients transferred with the program. A Permanent Supportive Housing Program (PSH) allows clients to obtain housing with case management services as long as they wish. The client criteria for the program is as follows:

  1. Must be U.S. military veteran (veteran status is achieved after 2 years on active duty).
  2. Must be a single adult and a minimum of 18 years of age. The program serves male, female and transgender clients. Income is not required for program eligibility. The program embraces the key principles of the Housing-First model to assist program participants in optimizing their capacity for independent living.
  3. Client must be chronically homeless (4 or more episodes of homelessness in the past 3 years or a single period of at least 1 year). Occasionally the Dekalb CoC will grant a waiver to allow a veteran who is “homeless” (lack of a fixed, regular or adequate nighttime residence) to enter the program.
  4. Eligibility requires a verifiable disability and can be any or a combination of the following: mental health, substance abuse or physical.
  5. Potential clients must be referred through the Dekalb County Coordinated Entry Program. Dekalb CE completes an initial assessment for eligibility, assists in gathering required documents and finally, makes referrals to appropriate agencies for housing assistance.

Staff at RISE VA consists of a program manager, a case manager and a part-time intern. Case management services that are offered include:

  1. Assisting with the development of the CW Person Centered Plan (PCP).
  2. Assisting with psychiatric and medical emergencies.
  3. Individual counseling and referring participants to community agencies for grocery assistance, rental assistance, clothing, etc.
  4. Assisting participants in securing mental health, HIV, and/or substance abuse services.
  5. Referrals for vocational and job training. 6. Budgeting, limited credit counseling, money management, and other life skills training.
  6. Benefits advocacy, as appropriate.
  7. Social, recreational, and other positive activities of daily living.
  8. Links to vocational support to help veterans with job search as needed.

The RISE VA program serves a total of 30 individuals when at full capacity. The clients live in single bedroom apartment units at The Park East Ponce Apartments in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Once clients have established income (many enter the program with some type of income) they contribute 30% of total income to rental payment. This provides an opportunity to maintain safe, affordable permanent housing and engage in positive steps toward greater independence and responsibility.

RISE VA demographic information:

  • 83% of clients are black
  • 17% of clients are white
  • 91% of clients are male
  • 9% of clients are female
  • 92% of clients have income
  • 8% of clients have 0 income but are working toward employment/benefits
  • 49% of clients are employed
  • 43% of clients receive one of the following or a combination of: SSI, SSDI and V.A. pension/benefits
  • 100% of clients are covered by some type of insurance.
  • Average age of clients is 57
  • Oldest client is 71
  • Youngest client is 29
  • 41% of clients have been diagnosed with PTSD*
  • 57% of clients have been diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder.*
  • 78% of clients have a mental health diagnosis (this includes those diagnosed with PTSD)*
  • 43% of clients have a physical disability.*

*Many RISE VA clients have co-occurring or combined diagnoses.

Clients normally stay in RISE VA PSH between 3-9 years. The program has 3 clients who entered at the inception of the program in 2012-2013. All clients have been in the program longer than one year as of July 2021.

Occupations of employed clients:

  1. Several clients are employed full time at the V.A. hospital (warehouse/supply, Covid response teams and orderlies).
  2. One employed at the V.A. as a full time veterans case manager/activities program manager.
  3. One employed by a non-profit organization as the homeless veterans case manager/V.A. liaison.
  4. One employed as a chef.
  5. One employed as hotel service staff.
  6. One employed as a catering server.
  7. One employed as a maritime welder and first responder.
  8. One employed as a maintenance supervisor for several
  9. Several employed as Uber/Lyft drivers.*

*Three clients have reached retirement age and two work part-time as Uber/Lyft drivers.

Although RISE VA clients are extremely self-sufficient and lead fulfilling independent lives, occasionally they encounter difficulties, primarily financial and require assistance with basic needs. More often than not, financial issues lead to food insecurity and lack of hygiene products and cleaning products for the home. My hope is to develop an emergency pantry with food and supplies that have a long shelf life that can be distributed to our vets when they lack resources. Any donations received for this endeavor would be greatly appreciated.