Spotlight on Buncombe County, NC
- Industry: County government
- Location: Buncombe County, NC
- Number of Employees: 5
- Population: 261,191
- Tyler Client Since: 2016
- Tyler Solution: Tyler Veterans’ Benefits solution
“No Veteran should be without a place to call home.” These words are found on the website of the Department of Veterans’ Benefits in Buncombe County, North Carolina. To make that motto a reality, the department is leveraging the power of case management to help homeless veterans who come to their community from around the United States. Despite challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, they have been able to continue to provide and track services that combat chronic homelessness, addiction, and joblessness among the veteran population.
Challenges: Supporting the Local Homeless Veteran Community
Buncombe County has a large Veteran community, in part because the county is home to the Charles George VA Medical Center, which attracts Veterans from all parts of the country. Unfortunately, Veterans are overrepresented among the homeless in the United States, and are at greater risk than nonveterans of becoming homeless. The Buncombe County Homeless Veterans Initiative provides a full range of interventions and services to prevent homelessness, and to get homeless veterans into stable housing. In 2017, they began using Tyler’s Entellitrak-based Veterans’ Benefits case management solution to track their progress and generate reports to submit to the county commissioners.
Solutions: Making Connections
Participants in the Homeless Veterans Initiative are identified through various local outreach activities. Veterans service officers go out weekly into the community and meet veterans where they are, with the intention not only to help the homeless, but also to intervene on behalf of at-risk veterans before they lose their housing. They also coordinate with other local agencies to host an annual Stand Down. The Veterans Administration describes a Stand Down as an event at which “VA staff and volunteers provide food, clothing, and health screenings to homeless and at-risk Veterans."
In addition, Veterans also receive referrals for health care, housing solutions, employment, substance use treatment, mental health counseling, and other essential services.” These interactions create connections, build trust, and allow the veterans to get the benefits they have earned and the housing they need.
When our office flags a veteran as either homeless or at risk for homelessness, we track them through our referral process from start to finish — from that veteran being homeless to being in stable housing.
Supervisor, Buncombe County Veterans Services
Technology to Track and Trace Services
Buncombe County uses case management from Tyler Technologies to help them track and administer services to all the veterans in their community. The Tyler Veterans’ Benefits solution manages information about each veteran and helps VSOs to process and submit claims to the federal Department of Veterans Affairs.
To support the Homeless Veterans Initiative, Buncombe County had additional needs for the case management solution. It was further configured to help organize and keep track of all the veterans being served through the program. Their case files are flagged to indicate they require intervention in order to maintain stable housing. These individuals are then tracked throughout the referral process until their housing is secured. Services are provided through a number of local partner agencies and charitable organizations, including NC Serves, Homeward Bound, and the Charles George VA Medical Center.
“It is an honor to support programs like Buncombe County’s Homeless Veterans Initiative,” said Kris Collo, president of Tyler’s federal division. “Our solution is fully configurable to meet specific needs like these, and we love to see that flexibility being put to use to serve citizens in this way.”
The COVID-19 Impact
Despite the use of case management technology, providing services to homeless Veterans is not an easy task for Buncombe County. The transient nature of homeless individuals makes it difficult to keep track of them; also, because so many of Buncombe County’s veterans are from elsewhere, they are likely to leave the area. These difficulties were made even more challenging by the COVID-19 crisis. The Department of Veterans Services staff of four VSOs had to stop accepting walk-ins; now they can only take previously scheduled appointments. Traffic slowed considerably from the 300-400 veterans the office was accustomed to serving each month. Still, using the Tyler Veterans’ Benefits solution, the department was able to track every interaction, every communication, and every referral to another agency within the system — including who the veteran was referred to and why.
Demonstrating Positive Results
Despite recent difficulties, the department is making a difference. Generating reports from the Tyler Veterans’ Benefits solution, the staff is able to see and share data that shows that the Homeless Veterans Initiative has been making a real impact in the community. Using the system’s detailed search capabilities, VSOs can more efficiently identify which services a veteran may be eligible for and keep track of what they have been provided.
Automating processes gives VSOs more time to spend interacting with veterans and building relationships that help them better serve those who have served. Using case management, they are able to help veterans find a place to call home.