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Housing agency claims VA turns homeless veterans away

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News, file, 2013)

SALT LAKE CITY – Are the people in charge of caring for homeless veterans in Salt Lake City turning their backs on them instead?  One city agency says there are a lot of empty beds at a facility designed for homeless vets.

The Housing Authority of Salt Lake City says there are currently more than 70 homeless veterans within the city, and they believe there is room to spare at the Valor Home on the campus of the VA Medical Campus in Salt Lake City.

Deputy Director Britnee Dabb says there has been over a 30 percent vacancy rate at the complex for the past few years.  She adds, “It was designed to house 72 homeless veterans on the VA campus.  How many do we have [inside] today?  We have 45.”

One of the problems, according to HASLC Director of Homeless Programs Zac Pau’u, is that the local VA office is given certain rewards for the veterans who finish the program at Valor House.

“The local VA staff is given bonuses based on the successful outplacement of veterans from this transitional housing program,” Pau’u says.

He claims the VA had total control over who they allowed into the home, even though the HASLC was funding it.  This reportedly allowed the VA to turn certain people away.

Pau’u says, “If they come with a history of substance abuse or alcohol abuse, they’re going to be more difficult to rehouse.  They’re not making it through their funnel into our housing.”

However, the VA is refuting these claims.  They issued a statement denying these bonuses exist.  It says, “Federal employees do not receive bonuses for relocating Veterans to non-supportive housing. Futhermore, they have never received bonuses for placement of Veterans, nor is there any encouragement to relocate Veterans.”

They also refute claims that they turn addicts away.  Their statement says, “VA Salt Lake City never turns away or denies services to homeless Veterans. However, we do make certain that Veterans are placed in the appropriate housing situation for their recovery needs.”