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VA Searching For Places To House Homeless Vets Before Convention Center Shelter Closes

The San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla is shown on Sept. 26, 2019.

Photo by Zoë Meyers/inewsource

Above: The San Diego VA Medical Center in La Jolla is shown on Sept. 26, 2019.

— The clock is ticking on the VA San Diego to find a more permanent solution for homeless veterans.

Jeff Stuenzi is an Army veteran. After a stroke 8 years ago left him in a wheelchair and affected his speech, he has been homeless. Asked where he will go, once the convention center stops being temporary housing, he doesn’t have an answer.

“I don’t know. I don’t know. Homeless. Sucks,” said Stuenzi, in a halting voice.

Stuenzi is among the 150 veterans living at the San Diego Convention Center this week. The city moved people living in shelters to the Convention Center to allow more space for social distancing as a way to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Reported by Steve Walsh

One of the shelters that closed was operated by Veterans Village in the Midway District. It was a temporary solution to a long-standing problem, said Cindy Treichel, supervisor for the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, at the VA San Diego.

“For us, it's a sense of urgency,” she said. “Obviously, it's better to have people housed in permanent housing than live in a temporary shelter. So our goal is to work with landlords that we can identify, really make ourselves available to get veterans out of the convention center.”

According to Ashley Bailey, a city spokesperson, the city has not decided how long the convention center will remain open as temporary housing. Adding urgency, this week, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced that the veterans shelter in the Midway District will not reopen. Instead, San Diego will work with Chula Vista to create a regional center.

Concentrating homeless clients at the convention center has actually helped in some ways. The VA has found veterans that they may not have located if they were living on the streets. The VA has enough housing vouchers to pay for permanent housing for all of the veterans living at the convention center, Treichel said.

“We have resources in terms of vouchers. Now we need resources in terms of landlords,” she said.

The problem is finding enough landlords to take the vouchers. Typically the VA would do things such as physically search for vacancies out in the community but their ability to find housing is limited by the virus. The VA is asking people to call (858) 642-3939 with leads on apartments available in San Diego.

Listen to this story by Steve Walsh.

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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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