City council commits $4M to finding housing for homeless vets

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego City Council approved spending $4 million on a program to find housing for 1,000 former armed forces who are currently homeless.

The “Housing Our Heroes” campaign was announced in January by Mayor Kevin Faulconer in his “State of the City” address, and was launched last month by the San Diego Housing Commission, which handles homeless programs for the city.

The commission is harnessing a variety of funding sources to pay for the remainder of the $12.5 million program, including a pair of real estate transactions.

“We have an opportunity — I think all of us would say an obligation — to make sure that the men and women who served our country with such dignity get the help and respect they deserve,” Faulconer told the council members.

“Many of our homeless veterans unfortunately suffer from mental health or substance abuse issues,” Faulconer said. “Some feel it is impossible to navigate through the system of care providers and vouchers.”

The program will provide incentives to landlords who rent to homeless veterans; assist with security deposits and utility bills; create a contingency fund to help landlords cover expenses like move-out repairs; provide 300 federal rental assistance vouchers; and make mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, job training skills and health services available.

The program follows the Housing Commission’s “Housing First” model, which seeks to get the homeless a roof over their heads quickly and provide them with the services they need to keep them off the streets.

Councilman Todd Gloria said getting 1,000 former military members off the streets “effectively ends veterans’ homelessness” in San Diego and around the region.

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, the California Apartment Association and the San Diego County Apartment Association are joining in the effort to provide outreach to landlords.

The local apartment association estimates the area’s vacancy rate to be 2.8 percent, which is considered low — making it more difficult for veterans to find housing.

Last year’s count of the region’s homeless found that 15.4 percent had once served in the military, out of a total of more than 8,700 people living on the streets or in shelters.

Landlords seeking information about program can call (619) 578-7768 or email HousingOurHeroes@sdhc.org.