America’s saddest city

San Diego is failing its homeless veterans

While San Diego has been focused on finding a home for the Chargers, other cities are making headway on something much more pressing — finding homes for homeless veterans.

In 2010, the Obama Administration challenged the nation to bring an end to veteran homelessness. Several cities have done so — Houston, Las Vegas, New Orleans — but not San Diego.

Why not?

It’s not for lack of resources. It’s a lack of leadership.

“All-hands-on-deck efforts seem to have characterized some of the cities that have made the formal claim (of ending veteran homelessness),” Keith Harris, who overseas the national effort, told Voice of San Diego. “That strikes me as a difference with San Diego.”

We are home to one of the largest concentrations of military installations in the world, and home to the third largest population of homeless veterans.

Regional leaders haven’t come together to solve this problem, and it’s shameful.

Instead, we get excuses. Our housing market is too expensive and the state took away Redevelopment money that could have been used to build affordable apartments, we’re told.

But homeless advocates say San Diego County has many of tools already in place to end veteran homelessness. We’re just not using them.

In fact, only 78 percent of housing vouchers offered by the VA were used in 2015, despite the fact that nearly half the area’s homeless vets use the VA for medical care.

And while the number of homeless vets has dropped over the last four years, it actually went up by nearly 6 percent from 2014 to 2015.

In other cities, mayors and city leaders brought advocates, the VA and others together to solve this problem.

What San Diego needs is leadership — something our region seems to lack.

To his credit, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced an initiative to get 1,000 homeless vets off the streets in his recent State of City Address — but it shouldn’t have taken six years to fix this problem. We’re playing catch-up.

Let’s hope Faulconer is able to bring all the stakeholders together and effectively deploy the resources we have in place to house our veterans. If he can’t, someone else should step in.

This should be the year we say all of our veterans have a home.



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About the Author'

Tom Chambers

Tom Chambers is the editor of the Military Press.