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New Head Of Veterans Village Embodies Change In The Institution

Akilah Templeton in an interview with KPBS on Aug. 20, 2020.

Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: Akilah Templeton in an interview with KPBS on Aug. 20, 2020.

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Akilah Templeton is the first non-veteran to run the non-profit founded by veterans in 1981.

Aired: August 20, 2020 | Transcript

Akilah Templeton this month took over as president and CEO of Veterans Village of San Diego.

The non-profit famous for the homeless outreach Stand Down. Templeton comes from Los Angeles, where she was executive director of U.S. Vets Inglewood.

She takes over from Kim Mitchell who left in November.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

Reported by Steve Walsh , Video by Roland Lizarondo

Q: You're the new president and CEO of Veterans Village. You are the first non-veteran to run Veterans Village. It's been around since the 1980s, founded by Vietnam vets. What made you decide to spend your life working with veterans?

Over the course of my career, I've worked with several populations who have experienced homelessness, who have experienced poverty and hunger. But the veteran piece, I think, just really struck a chord with me because of the irony there. The irony is just in, you know, the reality that we actually have homeless veterans in America.

Q: Are you able to do everything — drug treatment, outreach to homeless - are you able to keep every one of your programs up and running right now?

I think that we are doing what we can, the best that we can. So, I think there are certain, you know, elements of all of those things that you've mentioned that have certainly survived. We are doing outreach. We are providing for groups, but we are doing it differently. And, so we may not have a situation where you can have 10, 20, 30 veterans in a space, but we're finding ways to do it.

Q: You were running a temporary shelter on Point Loma but that has since shut down. Are we going to see this Veterans Village changing ... are we going to see a new direction in the next few years?

Well, you know, certainly I think all organizations experienced some level of change and evolution, right? And that's a good thing, right? It just means that the needs are changing, the demands are changing, and it's up to us to adapt. Does that take time? Yes. Well, we already had it down that road. Yes. But then the unexpected happened. COVID happened. And, so it may take us a little longer.

Q: So there are a number of veterans that are housed right now, over at the convention center because of COVID-19. What role are you playing in trying to find a more permanent situation for those veterans?

Yes, so very soon, I'll take my first visit down to the convention center to actually see what's happening firsthand, but I can tell you that even though this is only week three, that was actually my priority coming into the door. We've been working diligently over the past couple of weeks to collaborate with other agencies, with landlords. We're looking at some of our programs and we think that we have some pretty solid options for moving some of our veterans from the temporary shelter environment into permanent housing.

Q: And what's the biggest impediment there? Do you have enough landlords who are willing to take those things?

Well, you know, I think the challenges are the same everywhere, right? There is a low inventory of affordable housing. There are eligibility requirements. There's bureaucracy and paperwork and all of that. And so each situation is different. We are certainly looking at each case, each individual, each veteran.

Q: You are not full here right now. Is this a place where those veterans could be going?

This is an option. And so actually, we've done plenty of outreach at the shelter. We are working with veterans to determine if this is the best fit for them. So for those veterans willing to come and enroll and some of our existing programs, we have certainly presented them with that opportunity.

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Steve Walsh
Military Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover military and veterans issues for KPBS and American Homefront, a partnership of public radio stations and NPR. I cover issues ranging from delpoying troops along the California border to efforts to lower suicide rates among veterans.

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