The County will take a comprehensive approach to end veteran homelessness through a coordinated effort that will involve multiple agencies working together across the region.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, February 7, unanimously supported an initiative proposed last month by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, a former Marine.
“People very often say, ‘Thank you for your service,’ but I think that must mean something,” Fletcher said, introducing a proposal to have the county’s chief administrative officer develop a plan outlining the resources needed to achieve the eradication goal. homelessness among local veterans.
The Board also directed the CAO to work with the Regional Homelessness Task Force, the Department of Veterans Affairs, community organizations, and resources outside of the county as part of the regional effort.
The proposal did not include immediate costs, and Fletcher called for the plan to be updated monthly.
The goal is to reach functional zero where the community can accommodate the homeless with room to spare in any given month.
In recent years, special attention has been paid to homeless veterans. Fletcher noted that over the past four years, the number of homeless people in the county has decreased by 30 percent.
Zach Schlagel, senior director of public policy for People Helping the Homeless, called a meeting in support of the plan and said that only 9 percent of the county’s homeless population consider themselves veterans.
“This progress has been made possible by the VA, with the support of the federal government and local leaders, who have deliberately taken steps over the past decade to ensure greater investment and coordination on this issue,” he said. “However, more work is required. It is unacceptable that those who courageously served our country end up on the street.”
Nationwide, the number of homeless veterans has declined 55.3 percent since 2010 and another 11 percent between 2020 and 2022, according to data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.
However, there are still about 33,000 homeless veterans nationwide, and a February 2022 count in San Diego County found about 700 local homeless veterans.
Fletcher and other executives agreed that functional zero could be reached with a more coordinated effort.
“Here in San Diego we have a very aggressive and engaged local VA office,” he said. “So, I believe we have a path if we can align all of these pieces.”
Part of the plan, Fletcher said, is to create a list of homeless veterans to find out their actual numbers and individual needs.
“Then we find out every single person in that coalition,” he said of the various organizations that will be involved. “What is their role and what is their responsibility?”
While it hasn’t been set yet, Fletcher said the county’s plan would include a timeline that would put pressure on the coalition.
Chairman of the Supervisory Board Nora Vargas supported the proposal to implement this plan.
“There are so many people who have given so much to our country and they absolutely should not be homeless,” she said. “And so whatever we can do, I’m happy to support.”
Jordan Bean, director of policy and communications for the Regional Task Force on Homelessness, also called for support at the meeting. Bean said the new coordinated effort could close gaps in the system.
As an example, he said there are fully funded housing resources for veterans, but veterans may need someone to help them find those resources in a tough housing market.