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First Person: San Diego Landlord Makes It His 'Mission' To Rent To The Homeless

Matt Philbin is pictured, Aug. 30, 2018.
Brooke Ruth
Matt Philbin is pictured, Aug. 30, 2018.

Because of the housing shortage in San Diego, landlords can have their pick of renters. But real estate developer and landlord Matt Philbin has chosen to rent to people who often get passed by.

More than half of his current tenants have struggled with homelessness in the recent past, Philbin said.

Father Joe’s Villages, San Diego's largest homeless services provider, presented Philbin with its Impact Award at an event Thursday to honor landlords who help individuals and families overcome homelessness.


As part of our First Person series, Philbin explains how he found a career that has become his mission.

First Person: San Diego Landlord Makes It His 'Mission' To Rent To The Homeless
First Person: San Diego Landlord Makes It His 'Mission' To Rent To The Homeless GUEST:Matt Philbin, landlord, Anthem Real Estate Ventures

Our First Person series features the stories of Sandy Agins told in their own voices. Because the housing shortage in San Diego landlords can have their pick of renters but landlord Matt Philbin has chosen to rent to those who often get passed by. Father Joe's villages presented Philbin with its impact award at an event Thursday to honor landlords who help individuals and families overcome homelessness. As part of our First Person series Matt Philbin tells us why he rents to those who are less fortunate. My whole life I always wanted a mission. As a kid go into space camp and wanting to be an astronaut or the first man on the moon or after 9/11 got inspired to go to West Point and defend my country and then leaving the military. I still needed a job but I wanted a mission My name is Matt Philbin the CEO of Anthem real estate ventures. We currently provide homes for somewhere between 150 and 175 people and I would estimate that at least half of them or a little more have experienced homelessness in the recent past. I've always been very self self driven disciplined motivated and ambitious but also extremely compassionate. My parents planted that seed from being the hardest working people I've ever met from being generous both of spirit and financially towards helping others. And then maybe I might as a teenager and in the military I probably got away from that for a little while and then meeting my wife and she has the best heart of anyone I know. She has her masters in social work and when we move to San Diego she worked downtown at a clinic that provided outpatient mental health services to chronically homeless individuals with substance abuse problems and severe mental illness. So every day I heard her come home and would hear the general outline of the challenges that she faced in dealing with these with these populations and it just makes sense it's is extremely intuitive that you're not going to be able to fix those serious issues if you don't have a place where you can feel safe at night when you sleep. If you don't have a place to store your belongings when you want to go and have medical care or really do anything and it's just it's pretty intuitive that it's hard to put your life together when you're when you're sleeping outdoors on unsheltered so I knew the program existed called Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing. It's commonly called referred to as Vash. It's the main program to city of San Diego's Housing Our Heroes Initiative where mayor the mayor of Falconer's goal was to take 1000 homeless veterans off the streets permanently and put them into permanent supportive housing. And the main tool that does that is Vash. So I went to the VA and asked them why do you have so many homeless veterans I know you have this program. What's the issue. Eventually I found the right person who knew what the problem was and and he told me we don't have enough landlords who want to make their units available and go through the process that it takes to accept these vouchers. So we have the staff we have the program we have the framework of it we have the funding we have the vouchers the the bottle neck the missing link in the chain was some person or company that owned apartments and wanted to rent to homeless veterans. So that's the problem I set out to solve. The way to do that was I had to own an apartment building. So. That was challenging but I had had the three years of mentorship from real estate professionals while still in the army had already gone through the education and the testing to have my my real estate license here and I'd had several years of being introduced to other projects and I had read a lot to get started presented my plan to my first investor which was my immediate family members and I request. I asked them for seed money and they gave me some to get started. I then took that money and combined it with loans from banks from investors and scraped together a building. And then when it comes to getting the tenants that's replaces places like Father Joe's or the Veterans Administration where they shine is they've already done the leg work through through their donations they receive and through the funding they get from federal state and city money. They've already done the homeless outreach they've enrolled them in as whatever support whatever reconnected them to whatever resources they need to start to get their life on track. And it's tough for them. There's a lot. There are a lot of steps. So by the time somebody gets to me with a tenant based rental subsidy voucher they've already self selected to a degree as somebody who really wants to be house. I've had the pleasure to witness many times. The transformation that that somebody who has been home especially has been homeless for a long time. They might be wound up a little tight when they first move in but they can really blossom after a few months of having a stable safe place to live. And if they have mental health issues well now they have a place where they can receive mail. They're better at going to their doctors appointments. They take their medications more frequently because they're not always they're not losing their pills their pills aren't being stolen. There are lots of petty things that people go through drama that from living on the streets and once they're once they are housed they don't even out and blend in. So I don't get nearly as many complaints from neighbors or anyone that you would think from having apartment buildings with large numbers of homeless people because the amount of time that they're even identifiable as a homeless person is generally very short. They blend in very quickly and rightly so because they're not homeless people anymore they're just human beings like anyone. The moment I look forward to my favorite part of the entire job is after bringing in a new tenant and finishing all the paperwork. The moment I get to hand them their keys and I just kind of pause and relax and enjoy that moment. And then when they close the door and start living their life as a person who is not homeless anymore. And I walk out the door then my mind starts racing with how am I going to replicate this dozens or hundreds more times. That was San Diego landlord Matt Philbin. That first person feature was produced by Brooke Ruth.

Corrected: October 5, 2021 at 11:12 AM PDT
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