During this pandemic, the most vulnerable populations need a lifeline more than ever: reliable housing.
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is asking landlords to consider renting to seniors, the homeless and veterans through the Landlord Engagement Assistance Program, or LEAP. The program, that started in 2016 as Housing Our Heroes, subsidizes rent for tenants, provides landlords a deposit and offers incentives like money for each unit rented, among other things.
In Hillcrest, Ruben Barcia has a roof over his head and food to eat at the Parkview Apartments, things he doesn’t take for granted.
After serving in the Marine Corps, a motorcycle accident left him disabled and unable to work. He was homeless for seven years while struggling with addiction.
“I was living at parks, behind dumpsters, just living any place that I could where nobody would bother me," said Garcia. “That was during the injuries. I didn’t know how to cope with it and I didn’t have any kind of emotional support.”
He's now back on his feet thanks to a program that Mayor Faulconer is asking San Diego landlords to consider.
There were more than 900 beneficiaries of Operation Shelter to Home living at the San Diego Convention Center as of Tuesday morning, according to Faulconer. The project launched near the onset of the coronavirus pandemic as a way to protect the homeless population and centralize services. The end goal of the operation is to get homeless individuals and families into long-term housing, and more housing options will be needed when the time comes.
David Antczak, Garcia’s landlord, told NBC 7 it offers peace of mind during an uncertain time for LEAP participants.
“It gives me the security you know, that I will have a funding to pay my utilities. Funding to pay my maintenance people, funding to pay my mortgage lending, to pay my taxes and all other obligations that I have," said Antczak.
Most of all, he said, it helps someone in the most need and the return on that investment is priceless.
“I’m really grateful for the heartfelt landlords that do help the homeless and do not look at us less than. We are human beings and we all deserve a second chance,” said Garcia. For more information on the LEAP program, visit the San Diego Housing Commission's LEAP web page.
Rich Gentry, CEO of SDHC, told NBC 7 the units and tenants are vetted through many different factors including income and federal standard payments determined by size and area of the unit. The units are not luxury apartments, but must meet quality living standards.