SAN DIEGO - More than 700 homeless veterans have been enrolled in the city of San Diego's "Housing Our Heroes" campaign since it began in March of last year, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said Tuesday in urging landlords to take part in the program.
"Every veteran we get off the street and into housing is another step forward in our continued push to reduce homelessness across the city. We're making progress, but we still have more work to do," he said.
"While many landlords have stepped up to take in homeless veterans, we're asking for even more to open their doors this holiday season and make room for our struggling heroes," Faulconer said. "We are also adding new tools and expanding existing programs so there is better coordination and care among San Diego's service providers to help our entire homeless population."
The "Housing Our Heroes" campaign is a $12.5 million initiative and call to action to secure housing for 1,000 homeless veterans and transition them off the street.
Councilman Chris Ward joined the mayor at a news conference in front of an apartment complex in North Park that houses formerly homeless veterans.
"Our Housing Our Heroes goal is within reach, and with the support of property owners in our community this holiday season we can get 1,000 unsheltered veterans into permanent housing opportunities," Ward said.
"But even with the push for this ambitious benchmark we have a long way to go to address the special needs of all of those who are homeless, and I will continue pressing for more solutions to decrease the number of San Diegans on our streets in 2017," Ward said.
The campaign has secured housing for 450 homeless veterans so far, while an additional 254 have received housing assistance by way of housing vouchers and financial assistance, and are in the process of searching for an apartment.
Paul is one of the most recent homeless veterans to benefit. A Marine who saw action during the Vietnam War, he spent five years living in and out of his car.
Now, Paul is in an apartment, thanks to Housing our Heroes.
"It's almost like a new lease on life, to get out of the cold and get into a safe environment," said Paul.
David Antczak, who is the landlord for Paul and two other vets, said, "They've given up opportunities, education, career and family, and we just want to help out and the Housing our Heroes program make it easy to do that."
The landlord outreach component of the campaign has made available hundreds of units for homeless veterans, and there are 141 units available for those still looking for a place, city officials said.
"One-bedroom and studio rental units are in great demand for our homeless veterans, who desire to move into communities, such as Hillcrest and North Park, and so we are making another appeal to our private landlords, as we are grateful to the 290 who have already welcomed our Housing Our Heroes veterans," said Richard Gentry, president and CEO of the San Diego Housing Commission.
Securing housing for homeless veterans is often a slow process which is due, in large part, to the tight rental market within the city of San Diego.