Landlord Chris Blatt (right) with Mayor Kevin Faulconer outside one of Blatt's properties. Photo by Chris Jennewein
Landlord Chris Blatt (right) with Mayor Kevin Faulconer outside one of Blatt’s properties. Photo by Chris Jennewein

Updated at 6:21 p.m. Feb. 3, 2016:

A $12.5 million program to provide housing for homeless military veterans in San Diego was launched Wednesday by the San Diego Housing Commission.

The “Housing Our Heroes” campaign seeks to find a place to live for 1,000 homeless former members of the armed forces over the next year. It was first announced last month by Mayor Kevin Faulconer in his “State of the City” speech.

“We have an opportunity — and an obligation — to dedicate ourselves to the men and women who dedicated their lives to our country,” Faulconer said.

“We’re going to work with landlords to open doors to more homes, cover security deposits so veterans can move into those homes, provide hundreds of housing vouchers so disabled veterans can afford rent for their homes, and offer supportive services so veterans can stay in their homes — and not end up back on the street,” he said.

Faulconer said he will commit $4 million to the program, pending City Council approval.

The San Diego Housing Commission will administer the effort, which will combine funding and programs from the commission, the city and the federal government. There are four components:

  • Landlord incentives — The program will pay landlords $500 for the first unit rented to a homeless veteran, and $250 for each additional rental. There will also be money for security deposits and utility bills, as well as a contingency fund for repairs and lost rent. Landlords can call a hotline at 619-578-7768 or email HousingOurHeroes@sdhc.org to learn more.
  • Ron Roberts is interviewed as residents of one of Chris Blatt’s apartments watch. Photo by Chris Jennewein

    Re-Housing Assistance — Up to 600 veterans who are homeless because of an unexpected event such as a job loss or medical emergency will be provided rental assistance through various non-profit organizations.

  • Federal Vouchers — The housing commission will distribute rental assistance vouchers from the federal Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program to 300 chronically homeless veterans with a disability.
  • Housing  Vouchers with Supportive Services — This will combine housing assistance with such services as mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and job training for 100 homeless veterans.

“The funds are here. We’ve identified them. Certainly we know that the need is here,” Housing Commission President and CEO Richard Gentry said. “But the success of this collaborative initiative lies with landlord partnerships, as well as homeless veterans taking advantage of those housing opportunities.”

The program follows the 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.

“Veteran homelessness is a solvable challenge, and the plan to house 1,000 veterans will make a significant impact toward this regional goal,” Councilman Todd Gloria said. “A collaborative approach between the city, the county, property owners and service providers is the key to our success.”

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.

–City News Service contributed to this report

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.