On the last Friday in January, the annual 2015 count on homeless veterans in San Diego County was 1,381. El Cajon-based nonprofit Crisis House in partnership with the Volunteers of America and funding from the Department of Veteran Affairs is working to permanently house homeless veterans. It is part of a national agenda called the Supportive Services for Veteran Families, which was established in 2011 to rapidly re-house homeless veteran families and prevent homelessness for those at imminent risk due to a housing crisis.
Mary Case, executive director of Crisis House and Dolores Knight, housing locator, Supportive Services for Veteran Families, are working hard to bring the number of homeless veterans in the county down to zero.
“There are several agencies out there doing this that have the grants and it is a huge push to make it happen. We all meet as a group; it is going on all over the country,” Case said. “It’s a national effort that is part of first lady Michelle Obama’s agenda as well.”
Case said the idea of the rapid re-housing program is to give rental assistance with supportive services. “The whole concept is to get veterans and their families off the street,” Case said. “It’s a big challenge to find housing in a market where the vacancy rate is 2 percent.”
Knight, who works with landlords and property managers to find housing for homeless veterans and their families, described several situations of veteran families in need. One is of an older couple who were living on the streets for months, unable to save up the two to two-and-a-half times the monthly rent as a deposit for most rental units, even though the couple had the income to support the rent. The wife has to be near an electrical outlet for her medical conditions forcing the husband to move constantly to find outlets while being homeless. Another veteran lost his spouse, then his job, then his home.
Knight described how the services are tailored to each individual’s situation. The grant not only provides rental assistance, but can be used to subsidize the client in other services such as job placement and therapy as well.
“It’s not just getting into the unit,” Knight said. “We can help with rent for a few months, for example we might provide rent for four months for a family and only two months for a single individual. Each situation is unique.”
Knight said that what is important is to get the word out among landlords and property managers to get more clients placed.
Case, who was formerly with Father Joe’s Villages for 30 years and was named among the 2014 San Diego Business Journal’s “Women Who Mean Business” awards, said they are willing to place veterans anywhere in the county where people want or need to be. “They might have kids in school and don’t want to leave a school district.”
During a recent presentation Crisis House gave to a group of business men and women, Pam Dykstra, a realtor for Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices of La Mesa and Barker Management Inc. (representing the Lincoln Hotel in downtown San Diego) stepped forward to provide housing for three clients.
“In all three cases we are grateful to our supporters,” Knight said.
“The nationwide goal is what is known as functional zero,” Case said. “It doesn’t stay zero — homelessness is dynamic, we need more people to step up.” Visit crisishouse.org.
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In other veteran news, Workshops for Warriors announced that it has been awarded a $75,000 grant by JPMorgan Chase & Co. to assist in its efforts to train veterans transitioning into civilian life with job skills and placement. Founded in 2008, Workshops for Warriors provides veterans and injured vets with training in CNC machining, CAD/CAM programming, and welding. Since 2011, 194 veterans and wounded warriors have been trained on-site and received third-party nationally recognized credentials, with 100 percent of graduates obtaining jobs in advanced manufacturing.
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Injured marine veteran, SSGT Jason Ross was provided with a smart home in Fallbrook recently. The Gary Sinise Foundation’s R.I.S.E. Program, along with its donors, including the Marcus Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, Carrington Cos., Carrington Charitable Foundation, Shubert Design Furniture, National Wood Flooring Association, Benjamin Moore, North American Van Lines, Cord Moving and Storage, General Electric, sk7 Design Studios and MLA General Contractors helped to build the specially adapted custom smart home for Ross.
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