Volunteers of America of Los Angeles (VOALA) was awarded a SAMHSA General Treatment for Homeless grant that began September 30, 2009. VOALA’s program, The Barracks, in partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, provides a holistic, evidence-based, culturally appropriate recovery program. The Barracks links substance abuse and/or mental health treatment with residential housing, case management, wrap-around support services and aftercare to meet the emerging and underserved needs of male veterans who are homeless in Los Angeles County, California.
Program's staff's hard work is essential to The Barracks' success.
The Barracks is a blend of Housing First and Safe Haven models. The program uses Motivational Interviewing, Seeking Safety and anger management among its evidence-based practices, and process groups, life skills, and mutual self-help groups are among its promising practices. The primary goal for all members is to enter into affordable, permanent housing.
The Barracks is one of the first programs designed for veterans that is non-abstinence based. According to VOALA’s Project Director, James Howat, “Although we encourage moderation/abstinence, it is not a requirement; members may spend occasional nights away from the program without the fear of losing their beds. Incentives contribute to the engagement of members in program services and activities.”
When applying for the grant, VOALA promised to expand and strengthen treatment services for 120 veterans during the five-year grant period. They are currently fully staffed, operating at full capacity, and serving 54 homeless veterans. All staff have life experience as well as work experience with similar populations. Management staff have credentials in substance abuse treatment. Other staff members have credentials in Motivational Interviewing, anger management, and non-violent crisis intervention. According to Howat, “The most important factor about the staff is the enthusiasm they bring to the program. All of them are excited to be working in this new and innovative program.”
The Barracks’ members are homeless male veterans (100%) of which some may also be chronic inebriates (20%) and chronically homeless (90%). All participants admitted to treatment are screened for the presence of co-occurring substance use and mental disorders and provided referrals for HIV testing and other health related problems. VOALA aligns its treatment philosophy with the principles of Housing First and the social model of which member interaction is conducted through Motivational Interviewing and supplemented by Seeking Safety therapy and peer-based recovery support groups.
When asked about the programs greatest successes, Howat responded with the facts, “Six individuals [are] placed in permanent housing; seventeen individuals [are] currently processing applications for permanent housing; three [members] are employed; sixteen [members] have SSI applications pending approval; all [members] have been assisted with available benefits; three [members] have chosen residential programs for co-occurring disorders; and the program [was] filled to capacity on opening.”
Howat believes that the program’s partnership with the Veterans Administration of Greater Los Angeles (VAGLA) is a large contributor to their success. “[VAGLA] provides a myriad of services, beginning with the basics of medical, mental health, and substance abuse treatment.” Howat continued, “In addition, VAGLA also assist Barracks members with dental care, smoking cessation, grief and loss, and pain management.”
The Barracks strives for innovation and have recently implemented a savings agreement for its members to save 30 percent of their income. The program also established an alliance with the Skid Row Housing Trust program in Los Angeles, and has provided a variety of staff trainings.
Clinical Supervisor Kimberly Hendrix and Program Supervisor Larry Archuleta