San Diego

Normal Heights Apartments Provide Housing to Dozens of Homeless Veterans

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NBC 7

Dozens of homeless veterans can now call a place home after a Normal Heights apartment complex opened Tuesday.

Alpha Lofts unveiled its 52 studio and one-bedroom apartments meant to help San Diego veterans get back on their feet through a partnership between the Alpha Project, a non-profit that serves the homeless community, and the Chelsea Investment Corporation, an affordable housing developer.

“This community will provide quality housing for these people who sacrifice and served our country faithfully and now find themselves without a home,” said Bob Cummings, government relations manager for the Chelsea Investment Corporation.

The apartments will not just be a place to live, Cummings said, but will also offer “comprehensive supportive services” from the Alpha Project, which can include helping those find independence through education, employment, and sobriety.

“It’s not just a big box that they get to live in; it’s a box that comes with support and love and planning for their future,” said Stefanie Benvenuto, chair of the San Diego Housing Commission.

The Alpha Lofts team first secured the site on El Cajon Boulevard in February 2015, Cummings said, and broke ground three years later. After 13 more months of work, the apartments were ready.

“It’s a big deal because we’re in a housing crisis, and there’s no shortage of need, particularly, for our more vulnerable families and those veterans that are living on the street,” Benvenuto said.

According to the Alpha Lofts program manager, Todd Vance, the 52 veterans provided with housing Tuesday were those who have been “chronically homeless” or were the most “endangered.”

“There’s been a large gap in care with supportive services with veteran homelessness,” Vance said. “I think this is the first step in the right direction to help solve that issue.”

The apartments were funded, in part, by $5.2 million from the San Diego Housing Commission, as well as financial support from Union Bank and the California Housing Finance Agency, Benvenuto told NBC 7.

In addition to the $5.2 million, the commission provided 52 federal renting vouchers that would help keep the apartments affordable for its tenants. If a veteran moves out, the voucher would stay with the apartment, so Alpha Lofts can remain as inexpensive as possible, Benvenuto said.

“These vouchers are key to making these apartments affordable to veterans experiencing homelessness,” Cummings said.

Alpha Lofts is part of the San Diego Housing Commission’s homeless action plan, Housing First San Diego. The 52 apartments added to the more than 6,000 housing opportunities created by the program in the past five years.

While the exact number of homeless veterans throughout the county is unknown, San Diego’s annual homeless count found at least 800 homeless veterans in early 2019.

An annual count of San Diego's homeless population will help the city secure federal funding. NBC 7's Audra Stafford is live downtown.

“I am routinely frustrated, like many San Diegans, about the lack of housing options, but particular for veterans, the idea that we don’t have the stock of housing to help them just find civility in their lives is heartbreaking. And the fact that we are making progress, incrementally though it may be, is incredibly uplifting,” Benvenuto said.

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