Originally published October 9, 2013 at 5:15 p.m., updated October 10, 2013 at 5:56 p.m.
Gov. Jerry Brown was in San Diego Thursday, signing legislation that would help provide housing for the state's more than 19,000 homeless veterans.
SAN DIEGO Gov. Jerry Brown made a visit to the Veterans Village of San Diego on Thursday to sign what supporters are calling "historic legislation" to provide affordable housing for the state's veterans.
There are 2 million veterans in California, and at least 19,000 of them are homeless. That places a quarter of the nation's homeless veterans in Brown's state. That may explain his eagerness to sign theVeterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act of 2014.
"The people standing behind me helped make this happen for veterans, for their families, for our future," Brown said. "So with that, let's get to it. I want to sign this bill without any more delay."
Surrounded by veterans and legislators, Brown penned his name on the bill around 10 a.m. Thursday.
"I know some folks at this point in the state are a little skeptical of what we do up there in the state Capitol, but today we're doing something really good," Brown said.
The bill puts a measure on the June ballot that will allow voters to decide whether to take the remaining $600 million authorized by a bond act in 2008 and redirect it to build affordable multi-family housing for veterans.
The 2008 bond allowed veterans to purchase housing through the CalVet Home Loan Program. Supporters of the bill say that program isn't working anymore because of the recession's effect on the housing market.
"We don't stand still in California," Brown said. "This is the innovative State, whether it's taking care of veterans or immigrants or schools or healthcare, we want to be out in front."
Jeremiah Pannell was in the Navy for three years. When he got out, he went to school, got a job and started a family. But drug addiction and depression landed him on the streets. Years later, he got help from the Veterans Village of San Diego, where he watched Brown sign the bill Thursday.
"It will definitely help me because I really don't have many options when I leave here," Pannell said. "At this point, it's just like it's heaven-sent, and I can't do nothing but be happy about it."
Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego) co-authored the bill. He said it will get thousands of homeless vets off the streets and into safe, affordable housing.
"It could also bring in more federal dollars for veteran housing," Hueso said of the bond. "We could be looking at over $1 billion of construction for new housing for veterans."
The bill was also co-authored by Assembly Majority Leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), Sens. Marty Block (D-Lemon Grove), and Mark Wyland (R-Carlsbad), and Assemblyman Brian Maienschein (R-San Diego).
Voters will decide on the ballot measure in June.
City News Service contributed to this report.