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Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Opens New Residential and Therapeutic Facility for Homeless Veterans

July 2, 2008

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Domiciliary Assistant Carl Poole (left) and Peer Tech Specialist David Tillman raise the flag for the first time at the new domiciliary residence for homeless Veterans.  PHOTO: Bobbi Gruner, MEDVAMC


HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) opened a 40-bed domiciliary residence for homeless Veterans on June 30, 2008. The new facility, located at 7329 Fannin Street, features 14 apartments with kitchenettes and a 40-person dining facility.

“We are committed to the struggle against chronic homelessness among our nation’s Veterans,” said Edgar L. Tucker, MEDVAMC director. “This new domiciliary residence is another way for the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center to bring Veterans in need of assistance together with the wide range of programs and services VA provides.”

MEDVAMC’s Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program provides medical care and rehabilitation services in a residential and therapeutic setting to eligible ambulatory Veterans challenged by medical conditions, psychiatric disorders, or physical injuries who do not need hospitalization or nursing home care.

The mission is to provide an opportunity for motivated, at-risk Veterans to achieve his/her optimal level of functioning and return to independent community living.  This short-term residential rehabilitation program allows Veterans to learn skills needed to live in the community and avoid a return to homelessness.

“This is a place where a person must make a decision or choice on which direction to take,” said one resident of the new facility. “The Domiciliary Program is a place where you can choose to change your life direction and get on the road to recovery and positive living.”

Residents in the DCHV Program participate in a full range of rehabilitation services in a recovery model of care. Services include comprehensive medical and psychiatric assessments; “bio-psycho-social” treatments that include medications, psychotherapies for problems like addiction, depression, and anxiety, and social interventions such as vocational and occupational therapies; and opportunities to enhance one’s spirituality.  The facility does not provide shelter-type housing; Veterans must be willing to participate in treatment activities while they are living there.

“While the amount of time varies for each resident, most Veterans live at the facility between one and six months depending on the programs the Veteran is involved with and the Veteran’s individual needs,” said DCHV Director Sally Eddins, L.C.S.W.

VA estimates that about one-third of the adult homeless population served in the U.S. Armed Forces. Current population estimates suggest about 195,000 Veterans (male and female) nationwide are homeless on any given night and perhaps twice as many experience homelessness at some point during the course of a year. Many other Veterans are considered near homeless or at risk because of their poverty, lack of support from family and friends, and dismal living conditions in cheap hotels or in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Family background, access to support from family and friends, and various personal characteristics, rather than military service, seem to be the strongest indicators of risk for homelessness. About 45 percent of homeless Veterans suffer from mental illness and, with considerable overlap, slightly more than 70 percent suffer from alcohol or other drug abuse problems.

For more information about programs for homeless Veterans, contact the MEDVAMC Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program, now co-located with the DCHV, at (713) 794-7848. New patient intakes continue at the McGovern Drop-in Center, (713) 794-7533, located at 1418 Preston Street, one block from Minute Maid Park at the corner of Preston and La Branch. Veterans needing immediate assistance may also call the VA Network Telecare Center at (713) 794-8985 or toll free 1 (800) 639-5137 seven days a week, 24 hours a day.

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Comments for Houston Domiciliary Opening
by Kathy L. Henderson, M.D.
Manager, Mental Health Product Line
South Central VA Health Care Network

The Domiciliary Care Program is the VA’s oldest health care program.

  • Established through legislation in the late 1860’s, Domiciliaries provided a home for disabled soldiers of the Civil War.
  • Intended to provide services to economically disadvantaged Veterans and remains committed to that mission
  • Now, active clinical rehabilitation and treatment program
  • In 2005, domiciliary care became fully integrated with other residential treatment programs thru the Office of Mental Health Services and renamed - Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (DRRTP)
  • Offers two types of care
    • Bio-psychosocial rehabilitation (medical, psychological, social, education, and vocational services)
    • Health maintenance services
  • Since 2005, 12 new Domiciliaries have been opened, serving 5,000 Veterans just within the last year.
  • Average length of stay is 4 months.
  • With Doms, Grant and Per Diem, and HCHV, VA has > 11,000 transitional beds available around the country for homeless Veterans

Homelessness in VA

  • Estimated 154,000 Veterans homeless on each night
  • Twice as many experience homelessness over the course of a year
  • 33% of male homeless are Veterans
  • Veterans older, more educated that other homeless people
  • 4% of homeless Veterans are female
  • 45% of homeless vets suffer from mental illness; 70% suffer from alcohol./drug abuse problems

Homelessness in VISN 16/Houston

  • 17,000 homeless Veteran population in VISN 16 (21% of those in Houston catchment area)
  • 28% of Houston’s homeless population are Veterans (approximately 3,600)
  • 5-10% women
  • Increasing number of Veterans with families
  • 150-250 walk-ins in McGovern Drop-In Center per month
  • With the Domiciliary, now have 244 residential treatment beds for homeless Veterans in the community

Domiciliary in Houston

  • Funded in 2005 at $800,000/year
  • 40 beds homeless Dom to serve an additional 150+ Veterans annually
  • Serve Houston area but also sister states (loss of Biloxi- 170 beds)
  • Will serve Veterans with PTSD, substance abuse, SMI, other psych and medical disorder.
  • Serve women and elderly Veterans
  • Provide comprehensive medical, psychiatric, and vocational services within a residential and therapeutic environment
  • Also conduct outreach and post-discharge community support
  • For motivated, at-risk Veterans to achieve their optimal level of functioning and return to independent community living.

Article:  VA Opens New Complex for Homeless Veterans