The Housing Our Heroes initiative has secured rental housing for 1,000 veterans in San Diego, crossing a major milestone in the city's battle against homelessness, according to the San Diego Housing Commission.
Last year, the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) and the City of San Diego partnered to launch the initiative back on March 1, 2016. It's part of the SDHC's homelessness action plan known as Housing First--San Diego.
More than 430 landlords joined the initiative, according to the San Diego Housing Commission. About 43 percent of the participating landlords are new to SDHC rental assistance programs.
“There are agencies that are out there, and they’re doing their part, but it’s only so much they can do if landlords [aren’t] a part of it,” Jimmie Robinson said, in a statement. “Landlords have to open their minds and be part of this type of program."
In some cases, Housing Our Heroes has provided the support homeless veterans need to get back on their feet.
“We walked up to this place and it was like, 'Oh this is it. This is where I want to live,"' John Watson said, a formerly homeless veteran. “I feel like I won a prize. Because when I walked into this place and saw it, I couldn't believe it."
Watson was in the Air Force and spent the last three years homeless before moving into the Logan Heights Apartment Complex.
Noble Robinson is the landlord of that complex and takes part in the Housing Our Heroes program. He told NBC 7 they've created a close-knit community.
Out of his 10 apartment units, he dedicated six homes to formerly homeless veterans. Robinson said he used to be a platoon sergeant and experienced a variety of conflicts from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War.
“It’s kind of like they’re in my platoon. You know, I was a platoon sergeant in the war in 1967,” Robinson said.
Homeless vets can get housing through federal vouchers or through rapid rehousing assistance funds, according to the San Diego Housing Commission. Landlords were given financial incentives to rent rooms to homeless vets for the program.
“I want to thank the hundreds of landlords participating in the program for stepping up to help our most vulnerable Veterans," Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said, in a statement. "We still have a lot of work to do to reduce homelessness, but this shows what we can accomplish when we work together to help turn people’s lives around.”
Housing Commission officials said the landlord incentive portion was so successful they decided to expand it back in July.