San Diego Establishes Program for Homeless Veterans

San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer announced the “Housing Our Heroes” collaborative campaign by the San Diego Housing Commission and the city last Wednesday, which aims to provide housing to 1,000 homeless veterans this year. The campaign is part of the larger Homelessness Action Plan that targets homelessness in San Diego.

In addition to federal funds, SDHC and the city will jointly invest in the landlord-outreach component to provide a way for veterans to find stable housing.

“The initiative will invest close to $12.5 million in Federal, City and SDHC resources to provide housing opportunities for 1,000 homeless veterans in the city who are living on the streets or in shelters,” Melissa Peterman, the director of Homeless Housing Innovations at the SDHC, told the UCSD Guardian.

The target population faces particular challenges of reintegrating into civilian life, which can present themselves through difficulties in holding down jobs and having a steady income due to physical disabilities or mental health issues. This campaign aims to provide rental assistance that would give landlords monetary incentives to rent apartments to homeless veterans. Furthermore, the funds would be used to provide coverage for repairs that exceed the security deposit or cover unexpected vacancies due to unforeseen circumstances.

“A low rental-vacancy rate (currently 2.8 percent in the City of San Diego, according to the San Diego County Apartment Association) and tight competition for affordable and market-rate apartments make it difficult for homeless Veterans to obtain rental housing,” according to the press release.

Navy Hospital Corpsman for the Critical Care Unit at San Diego’s Navy Medicine West Miles Harris commented on the challenge that veterans face when transitioning from military life to civilian life in terms of reprioritizing their time.

“[There is] an immense amount of structure in the Navy; there is always a place and time that you need to be,” Harris told the Guardian. “And so a lot of what I have noticed, especially when a veteran retires … is [the challenge of] being able to provide their own structure.”

The “Rapid Re-Housing Assistance” component of The 1,000 Homeless Veterans Initiative addresses the unpredictability of life after service by providing some measure of security and housing options in the case of unexpected events.

“[The rapid re-housing component of the initiative will use] more than $1.9 million to provide rental assistance and up-front moving costs to homeless veterans and their families who became homeless because of unexpected life experiences, such as a job loss, domestic violence or medical crisis,” according to the SDHC’s press release.

Other resources currently available to veterans include an indoor homeless facility operated by Father Joe’s Villages and a nonprofit dedicated to providing interim housing centers, job training and mental health counseling.

“The fourth program component of The 1,000 Homeless Veterans Initiative, SDHC Federal Housing Vouchers with Supportive Services, combines housing for homeless veterans with supportive services, such as psychiatric counseling, substance abuse treatment, job training skills and health services,” Peterman said.

Craig Gustafson, the press secretary and director of Media Relations for Mayor Faulconer, spoke to the Guardian and said that about $2 million is spent annually to operate a permanent facility for homeless individuals at the Paul Mirabile Center, of which 40 percent of those beds are reserved for veterans.

The existing components of the initiative will be supplemented by this latest “Housing Our Heroes” campaign if it is approved by both the SDHC and the City Council. It is set to go before the SDHC on Feb. 12 for approval and the City Council on March 1.

Gustafson does not anticipate any objections to the passing of the initiative.

“We look forward to having unanimous support from the City Council when they vote on it on March 1,” Gustafson said.