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County launches initiative to end veteran homelessness in 15 months

San Diego County launched its new Leave No Veteran Homeless initiative Thursday with the ambitious goal of effectively ending veteran homelessness in the county in 15 months.

County leaders, alongside San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and representatives from the Department of Veterans Affairs, spoke at a news conference in front of the County Administration building.

An end to veteran homelessness — "Functional Zero," according to the county's plan — would be when the numbers of veterans entering homelessness is balanced by those finding housing, and when veteran homelessness is "rare, brief and nonrecurring."


County Supervisor Nora Vargas said that, though the county is doing what it can to connect homeless veterans to services, there is only so much that local agencies can do without more rental units for veterans getting off the streets.

"This is a call to action," Vargas said Thursday. "We need landlords to really step up and help us in this process. If you have a spare room, a small-unit apartment complex or a large development ... any space that could provide a dignified living condition is needed.”

Right now, hundreds of homeless veterans have either housing vouchers from the VA or other rental assistance but can't find anyone to rent to them, said Tamera Kohler, the CEO of the Regional Task Force on Homelessness.

"Not only do we have 126 veterans with vouchers, we have nearly 200 veterans with ... rental assistance ... who cannot find an apartment," Kohler said. "It's why we need to come together as a community (and) open more doors for our veterans experiencing homelessness."

Nicole Loebach, the Housing and Urban Development voucher coordinator at the San Diego VA, said she was hopeful that the initiative could get the word out to people in the community who might be in a position to help veterans.


"We have the resources to be able to address this problem — we have these housing vouchers — we just need the housing," Loebach said.

The challenge veterans face finding rentals that will accept their vouchers isn't new. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer ran into the same issue with his 2016 Housing Our Heroes program. In 2017, KPBS reported that more than 300 veterans with vouchers hadn't found places to rent — a number nearly identical to the one leaders cited Thursday.