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Renovation Of San Diego Homeless Veteran Shelter Celebrated

Video by Katie Schoolov

Veterans Village of San Diego has been undergoing renovations for the past 15 years. Friday, its completion was celebrated. KPBS video journalist Katie Schoolov was there for the ribbon cutting.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Diane Hickman cuts the ribbon for Hickman Hall, named after her husband Jim Hickman, at Veterans Village of San Diego on October 9, 2015.

The completion of a 15-year renovation project at a shelter for homeless veterans in the Midway District was celebrated Friday.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins and Mayor Kevin Faulconer were among the dignitaries who attended the dedication ceremony at Veterans Village of San Diego.

"When VVSD first began operating on Pacific Highway in 1990, our dream was to one day create a state-of-the-art facility to help veterans recover from alcoholism, drug addiction and emotional trauma," said Veterans Village President and CEO Phil Landis.

"Because of the generous financial support from committed partners and the hard work of hundreds of men and women, that goal has become reality," he said.

The upgrades include a new meeting hall, dental clinic and 24 new beds specifically for female veterans. LaTanya Smith, an alumni of Veterans Village, said the shelter helped her get back on her feet.

"When I got here off the bus at 4:30 in the morning, I came here with no family," Smith said.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Veteran LaTanya Smith speaks at Veterans Village of San Diego on October 9, 2015.

"I came here with no hope. I came here with no direction. And VVSD has given me the courage, and the guidance, that allows me to get up and come here today, and be able to stand up in front of you guys and say that in less than two months, I'll have two years clean and sober."

In 2007, the San Diego City Council approved $8.5 million for the five-phase expansion. Faulconer was a councilmember when the decision was made.

"What's great is having been involved in this campus back when I was on the council, seven years ago, and to see the transformation, to see the vision come to reality," Faulconer said.

"The city of San Diego has been a partner building this campus from the very beginning," Faulconer said. "It was an honor to celebrate the completion of a campus that serves veterans in a way that acknowledges the service they have given our nation."

A count of the region's homeless in January 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.

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