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San Diego Announces More Help For Homeless Veterans

A veteran checks in at the counseling booth at the 27th annual Stand Down eve...

Photo by Megan Burks

Above: A veteran checks in at the counseling booth at the 27th annual Stand Down event July 18, 2014 to learn about the housing and health services he can access.

Veteran's Villages of San Diego kicked off its 27th annual Stand Down event Friday. The three-day event offers check-ups, haircuts and referrals for services to San Diego's homeless veterans. This year's Stand Down came with a little extra help for some — more money for rent.

San Diego City Council President Todd Gloria and San Diego Housing Commission President and CEO Richard Gentry announced at the event San Diego has received 177 additional housing vouchers that help veterans cover rent.

The federal government has upped the allotment of the Veterans Affairs Housing, or VASH, vouchers in San Diego. The city has an estimated 3,000 homeless veterans.

Photo by Megan Burks

George Wilson, 59, joined the Army in 1972. He became homeless in 2009 after an injury kept him from finding work. In November 2013, Wilson began receiving rental assistance from the Veterans Affairs Administration and now lives in senior housing in North Park.

George Wilson was one of them when he came to San Diego from Texas in 2012.

"Being in Texas, we don't have things like this. It was a nine-month waiting list to get into the Patriot House, which is one of the veterans programs there," Wilson said. "So that would have been nine more months living on the street. San Diego does so much for their veterans."

Out of work because of a bad knee and living in his car, the 59-year-old Wilson said he was immediately placed in transitional housing through Interfaith Community Services, and was set up with an apartment with the VA voucher less than a year later.

Housing Commission President Richard Gentry said those receiving the new vouchers should also expect swift placement despite a shortage of affordable housing in the city.

"(We) administer just under 15,000 total vouchers, of which just under 800 now are going to be VASH vouchers. And we have absolutely no problem in getting landlord participation," Gentry said.

The vouchers work like Section 8, covering a portion of an individual's rent for apartments or houses on the private market. Veterans can find out if they're eligible through the VA or many of the other social service providers in town. The chronically homeless and sick will get preference for the vouchers.

Congress has increased funding for VASH vouchers every year since 2008.

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