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‘One Size Does Not Fit All': County Leaders Push for New Veteran Homeless Policy



County leaders are pushing for housing reform policies that address the specific needs of homeless veterans.

It hasn’t always been blue skies for Air Force veteran Jexsi Grey, who experienced homelessness just a few years ago.

“It was more like a perfect storm when I separated from the Air Force. The separation was not nearly as in-depth as going into the service, the training there.”

He ended up on the streets of San Francisco and said he couldn’t afford a roof over his head. So he showered at gyms and slept in his car, until he lost that, too.

“All of that started to become real. Without a vehicle, on the streets, my substance abuse was getting out of control — meth and heroine,” said Grey.

The pandemic, he said, actually helped get him back on his feet. Now in San Diego, ironically, he just received his real estate license and works in advocacy for homeless veterans. Last month, he stood alongside County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher as he and Board of Supervisors Chair Nora Vargas announced their new initiative to help every single homeless veteran find help and housing.

“We want to get to a place where there are no homeless veterans in San Diego and if somebody does become homeless, they are immediately identified and the resources are there to get them off the street,” Fletcher said.

If the policy passes, the county will work internally and externally to bring together stakeholders, lawmakers, local representatives and those who have experienced homelessness to come up with a playbook for helping homeless veterans. Fletcher emphasized the notion that one size does not fit all when dealing with the homeless epidemic. To make these sweeping changes, county staff, nonprofits and organizations on the ground will have to go person-to-person and assist.

“Someone who's been on the streets for a long time, they may not be a candidate to go right into an apartment. They might need a higher-intensity environment to begin with and then maybe they can transition to then living on their own,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said personalized case management, building more shelters and wrap-around services are a must to treat drug addiction or mental health issues. But also, attracting landlords to house the homeless has already become an obstacle.

“I think we’re gonna have some work on our end to make sure that we can make it work for those landlords. And then we’re going to need landlords who want to step up, say, 'Look, I get it. I care about this issue and I want to be part of the solution,'” said Fletcher

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