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By Miriam Raftery

February 15, 2023 (San Diego)-- San Diego County Supervisors have unanimously approved a proposal aimed at ending veterans’ homelessness. San Diego County is home to a quarter million veterans – and 8% of the homeless population countywide are veterans.

The ambitious proposal, introduced by Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Chair Nora Vargas, will direct county staff to join county government resources with regional partners. The goal is to get every veteran off the street and onto a positive life plan.

Fletcher that while the number of homeless veterans helped the streets locally in the past four years has dropped by 30%, this isn’t enough. While it’s common to say `Thank you for your service,’ to San Diego veterans, Fletcher says that’s not enough. He states, “I think that needs to actually mean something. In this effort, that means us willing to put together a dedicated effort, a focused plan, and the accountability” to effectively end homeless in San Diego County. (View video of his full statement.)

The approval of the policy put several actions in motion, including the convening of community organizations and stakeholders, government representatives from local, state, and federal levels, and individuals with lived experience to come up with a plan.

The plan is expected to be completed by the end of April, including metrics to measure results. Other actions will involve working with partners to identify and secure non-County resources; and advocating for regulatory, budgetary, and legislative efforts to help.

Some other possible components of the plan could include:

1. Removing barriers to housing for veterans, such as adequate housing vouchers and support to quickly match veterans with housing options; and

2. A landlord campaign to result in more placements of veterans with Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers.

The results of this year’s Point in Time Count of the homeless is not yet concluded. But according to last year’s Point in Time Count, our region has nearly 700 homeless veterans, and about half of those were staying in temporary shelters.

The Biden Administration and the VA Secretary have made a series of resources available with the goal of helping local jurisdictions end veteran homelessness. Supervisor Fletcher’s efforts will seek to leverage these resources plus local commitments to get veterans off the street.

Supervisor Fletcher previously said he has already spoken with members of the San Diego delegation to help him bring more resources to San Diego County, including Congressman Mike Levin and Assemblymember Chris Ward.

Some of the veteran organizations that have come together to be part of the coalition include the San Diego County Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, San Diego Veterans Coalition, San Diego Veterans For Peace, Zero8hundred, and Vets' Community Connections.

Ways in which the County is already helping veterans include:

  • Assisting over 1200 veterans find stable housing since 2009 through vouchers
  • Providing care coordinating and housing navigation for veterans involved in the justice system, through a partnership with the Sheriff’s Department and organizations helping homeless vets, and
  • Helping veterans access assistance programs through the county’s Office of Military and Veterans Affairs

Deacon Jim Vargas, the president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages, strongly supports the proposal by Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas. He says, “Veterans should not return from serving their country to find themselves living on the streets. We’re encouraged by Supervisor Fletcher and Chairwoman Vargas’ recommendations on how the County may take more urgent and permanent action to end veteran homelessness in our region.

Deacon Vargas adds that many of those served at Father Joe’s Villages with meals, healthcare and employment are former veterans who are now homeless, and even current service members. Over 80 units of permanent supportive housing at Father Joe’s Villages are dedicated to veterans. But Deacon Vargas says, “Ending veteran homelessness requires more than one provider: it requires continual, mindful effort to ensure no veteran is ever in danger of becoming homeless ever again.”

To read the entire policy passed by Supervisor Fletcher and the Board of Supervisors, click here.

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