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VA Aims To Prevent Homelessness Among New Vets

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Aired 2/7/11

The VA is looking for a place to open a residential center, to prevent a new generation of veterans from joining the homeless population.

The VA Medical Center in San Diego is looking for a property to house newly returned veterans who are at risk of becoming homeless. The idea of what is being called a “domiciliary” is to prevent a new generation of vets from joining those already on the streets.

An estimated 25 percent of the homeless in San Diego are veterans, many from Vietnam and earlier wars. In a count of the homeless living downtown last year, about 180 of 730 homeless people counted were vets.

Clay King is chief of social work at the VA Medical Center in La Jolla. He says it’s not easy to estimate how many vets who’ve recently left the service are homeless countywide, because they may be sleeping on friends’ couches and not yet reduced to sleeping on the streets.

But he says, with more vets returning every month, there is a looming problem. He says the VA wants to create a place where at-risk vets get help to make the transition to civilian life and a job.

“We’re looking at this as more of a prevention program rather than an acute treatment program,” he said, “It’s a highly structured program to help the men and women move on with their lives.“

King says the VA is looking for a place to lease with enough single rooms for 40 veterans, as well as group rooms and dining and recreation areas. He says there will be a full time care-management team of more than 20 staff on the premises.

The VA in San Diego has been awarded $33 million over five years to open the domiciliary, one of only five cities in the nation to get the grant.

King says he hopes to find a location this summer and open the rehabilitation center next year.

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