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Supervisor Fletcher proposes plan to end veteran homelessness countywide



SAN DIEGO —  A new county task force and landlord incentives to take in veterans are among the efforts that could end homelessness for all local vets, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said Friday while announcing a list of proposals.

Speaking at the Osmond K. Ingram Ship 1774 and American Legion Post 282 in La Mesa, Fletcher said he will introduce a policy to the Board of Supervisors next month to create a task force of leaders from different county departments to determine what existing and additional resources are necessary to end veteran homelessness locally.

He also proposed convening leaders to work on the issue and returning with a plan to end veteran homelessness countywide within three months.

Some steps are already in motion, including the San Diego Regional Task Force on Homelessness’ adoption in 2021 of a “Built for Zero” initiative to end veteran homelessness.

A focus on ending veteran homelessness has been successful nationwide in the past several years. The homeless veterans population has dropped by 55.3 percent since 2010 and dropped another 11 percent between 2020 and 2022, according to data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

A nationwide count conducted in January 2022 found about 33,000 homeless veterans, and the last local count found about 700 homeless veterans in San Diego County.

Fletcher said the county’s homeless veterans population has dropped 30 percent in the past four years, but he wants to see it even lower.

“A 30 percent decline is not what we’re going to strive for,” he said. “We want a 100 percent decline. We want to get to the position of functional zero.”

Functional zero is when a community is able to house its homeless population, with room to spare, on any given month.

Fletcher noted that the Biden administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs have provided new resources to help homeless veterans, making the goal of ending local homelessness that much more attainable.

Among the new federal resources, HUD is using American Rescue Plan funds to increase the supply of affordable housing, including for veterans. HUD and the VA also are engaging landlords and affordable housing developers, identifying ways to improve veteran access to new affordable units and supporting state and local collaboration to finance and create affordable housing.

The San Diego Housing Commission already has a program to offer incentives for landlords to accept Section 8 housing vouchers in the city of San Diego. Fletcher proposes making a countywide campaign for landlords to accept Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers to provide housing for homeless veterans.

Fletcher said he has spoken with Sheriff Kelly Martinez about instituting programs to help prevent veterans from falling into homelessness after being released from jail. A similar program already exists in the Vista Detention Facility, he said.

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