California leads the nation in the number of homeless residents, including vets.
It’s an important issue that is being addressed by many organizations, including CalVet and other state agencies, local governments, non-profits and the State Legislature.
Senate Bill 1380, adopted in 2016, builds on existing efforts. It created a Homeless Coordinating and Financing Council to oversee implementation of guidelines and identify resources, benefits, and services to prevent and end homelessness in California.
CalVet Undersecretary Russell Atterberry is Vice Chair of the Council, which held its first meeting in October 2017.
“I’m honored to represent CalVet on this important statewide council,” said Atterberry. “We know that veterans are at risk and that they are over-represented among the homeless. On any given night, more than 9,600 veterans experience homelessness in California.”
The rate of homelessness in California is 34 people per 10,000 – double the national average of 17 per 10,000.
California also has the highest number of veterans experiencing homelessness – 24 percent of the national total. Among the more than 13,000 unsheltered veterans in the United States – 42 percent live in California. Additionally, of the approximately 104,000 extremely low-income veterans’ households in California, 74 percent are considered severely burdened, meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on housing, according to the 2015 American Community Survey.
Thanks to SB 1380, all state housing programs are now required to adopt a Housing First model, which is accepted as the most effective approach to ending chronic homelessness and is known to yield high housing-retention rates, low returns to homelessness and significant reductions in crisis or institutional care.
Housing First recognizes that having a decent, safe place to live is the first necessary step before someone can look at stabilizing, improving health, reducing harmful behaviors or increasing income.
The Housing First model has four core components:
- Connecting people experiencing homelessness to a permanent home as quickly as possible;
- Removing barriers to housing that homeless people typically face;
- Allowing the resident to choose whether they want to participate in person-centered services; and
- Providing tenant leases with rights and responsibilities of tenancy.
The Council will meet quarterly and over the next year, will work to:
- Create a comprehensive list of state homeless programs;
- Conduct an analysis to determine needs throughout the state;
- Develop a scope of work and implementation plan for building a statewide data warehouse that receives data from local Homeless Management Information Systems; and
- Provide technical assistance to agencies as they adopt and incorporate the core components of Housing First.
In 2014, California voters approved $600 million to support the Veteran Housing and Homeless Prevention Program (VHHP). The program has already awarded a total of $234 million to support 54 developments across the state. Once all current developments are completed, there will be nearly 2,000 VHHP housing units statewide. More than 75 percent of housing units built with these funds are reserved for veterans experiencing homelessness.
In November, there will be a statewide measure on the ballot. The Veterans and Affordable Housing Bond Act of 2018 authorizes a $4 billion bond measure to support affordable rental housing and provide $1 billion to our successful CalVet Home Loan program for veterans.
To learn more, view the meeting report from the Department of Housing and Community Development.