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New federal legislation would boost funding for veteran homelessness

While veteran homelessness county-wide has decreased by about 30% over the past four years, there are still hundreds of homeless veterans in San Diego County.

SAN DIEGO — Hundreds of veterans in San Diego County currently have no place to call home.

While the number of unsheltered vets locally has declined over the past several years, work is now underway to try to eliminate veteran homelessness for good. 

New legislation called the "Return Home to Housing Act" would significantly increase the amount of federal funds reimbursed for homeless veterans housing, a move that local organizations say they desperately need.

"We would be able to serve more veterans, bottom line," said Dustin Potash, veterans director for the San Diego-based non-profit Adjoin.  

A critical part of its mission is to secure housing for vets experiencing homelessness.

"These veterans have, at some point in their lives, put their own lives on the line for people's freedom," Potash told CBS 8. 

Potash said he is encouraged by this new effort - on the federal level - which would boost funding for many of the housing services they provide.

While veteran homelessness county wide has decreased by about 30% over the past four years, there are -- at last count -- still about 700 homeless veterans in our region.

"Our goal is really to have no homeless veterans out there at all," Potash added. 

Currently, housing organizations like Adjoin are reimbursed $59 daily for each veteran served.

This new legislation -- co-sponsored by San Diego Congresswoman Sara Jacobs, would increase that rate by 74% to $103 per day.

"The more funds we have, the more vets we can serve," Potash said. "The more vets we can get off the streets into permanent housing and give them the support they need."

In a statement, Jacobs said, 

"Everyone – especially those who have served our country – should be able to afford a roof over their head. Yet, San Diego County has one of the largest populations of veterans experiencing homelessness in the country. The Return Home to Housing Act will ensure that we can provide more veterans with safe, transitional housing as we continue to push for housing that's permanent, safe, and affordable."

This comes just as San Diego County leaders recently committed to bringing an end to veteran homelessness.

"It's very common for people to say 'thank you for your service, but I think that needs to actually mean something," said County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. 

Fletcher, a former Marine, spearheaded this new move to strategically coordinate available resources throughout the region to combat veteran homelessness, so that they work together.

"In San Diego, we have a very aggressive and engaged VAs office," Fletcher added at the Feb. 7 County Board of Supervisors meeting, "so I believe there is a path for us if we can get all of these pieces aligned."

 According to the Congressional Budget Office, this newly proposed federal legislation would cost about $574 million over the next decade. If passed, it would go into effect immediately.

WATCH RELATED: Homeless and heartbroken | A housing error reveals cracks in San Diego's homeless system 


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