SAN JOSE (CBS SF) – San Jose and Santa Clara County officials announced an initiative on Veteran’s Day that aims to end homelessness among veterans in the area in the next two years.
“Our veterans have had the courage, the willingness to sacrifice, the willingness to serve for us and now it’s time for us to step up,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said during a news conference in downtown San Jose Wednesday.
The “All the Way Home” campaign plans to assist 700 homeless veterans in the city and county by 2017 in partnership with the county’s Housing Authority and other community organizations.
Of the 700 homeless veterans, 500 of them have no shelter at all, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese said.
The county has reserved $1.5 million in annual funding to house veterans, Cortese said.
The city and county will be introducing more programs and investments and additional real estate acquisitions to assist people in “the richest metropolitan areas in the world,” Cortese said.
“No one who served our country in this community should be sleeping tonight under a bridge or in a creek somewhere without shelter,” Cortese said.
Katherine Harasz, interim director of the Housing Authority of the County of Santa Clara, said more than 250 veterans and their families are without a home but have federal rent subsidies.
Harasz called on landlords who are willing to accept the veterans’ vouchers to work with the housing authority in leasing units for the homeless veterans.
The San Jose City Council approved a plan Tuesday that will rehabilitate 16 units for homeless veterans at Vermont House, a property owned by the city, Liccardo said.
The city is also investing more than $6 million in the next six months for permanent housing for as many as 100 veterans, according to Liccardo.
Vice Mayor Rose Herrera, who served during the Vietnam Era, formed a group called Veterans Empowering Veterans, which connects veterans with each other and works on providing housing for them.
“Veterans, especially the recent combat veterans, tend to be unhoused. They tend to be out there more than others just because of the emotional scars left by war,” Herrera said.
Tony Harrison, a Bay Area resident and U.S. Army veteran, has firsthand experience as a former homeless veteran.
Harrison came back to the Bay Area in 2004 after serving four years overseas and faced many obstacles.
His work in the military didn’t translate to skills in the civilian world, which forced him to go back to school, Harrison said.
He bounced between jobs and received help from friends, but was hit hard by the Great Recession, according to Harrison.
Of the 27 applications he submitted for housing, one was accepted and he was able to call San Jose home, Harrison said.
“I never stopped trying, I never stopped believing and I never gave up because I knew my day would come,” he said.
He recently started working with the Downtown Streets Team in San Jose as a case manager working to find housing for veterans.
More information on the campaign can be found online at http://www.AllTheWayHomeCampaign.org.
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