HUNTINGTON, WV (WOWK) – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is looking for landlords to partner with its Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) in the Tri-State.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the pandemic and increased property values have caused a “housing inventory shortage” in the regional area covered by the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center, which includes 10 counties in West Virginia, two counties in southern Ohio and 12 counties in eastern Kentucky. Officials with the Department of Veterans Affairs say many landlords have stopped renting or sold their properties, which has especially become a problem in eastern Kentucky.

“Many of the landlords, especially in Our Eastern Kentucky counties, are no longer renting units or have sold their properties,” said Angela Miller, VA Homeless Program Coordinator. “COVID-19 has created significant delays and shortages in housing availability for our Veterans. Many of the public housing authority offices were closed for much of the pandemic (or are still closed to the public.) Alternative arrangements, generally electronic were made to facilitate housing Veterans since the pandemic began.”

The HUD-VASH program helps veterans experiencing homelessness find affordable housing through the landlords they’ve partnered with. The Department of Veterans Affairs says the local program operates out of the Hershel “Woody” Williams VA Medical Center’s Community Resource and Referral Center at 624 9th Street in Huntington.

Officials say the HUD-VASH program combines the HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance for veterans experiencing homelessness with case management and clinical service through VA clinical employees. The housing vouchers and the supportive services help veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing. The VA says landlords who want to participate would receive HUD funding and will be able to talk directly to the tenant’s caseworker should there be any issues.

“There is a clinical social worker or a nurse that is working with them, so that if there are problems – non-payment of rent, too many people in and out of there, utilities ready to be disconnected – they can contact and will have a VA issued cell phone number,” Miller said.

VA officials say the prospective landlord would be assured “guaranteed” payment from the HUD every month and access to the funds may be paid directly to the landlord upon approval from the HUD once a veteran chooses a unit and it passes HUD inspection.

Anyone interested in helping can contact 304-429-6755 at extension 4603, or go online to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website or the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ website.