Silicon Valley veteran homelessness reaches new milestone
A formerly unhoused veteran at at the James F. Boccardo Regional Reception Center in San Jose. Photo courtesy of HomeFirst.

Flags fly at half-mast each Nov. 11 to honor Veterans Day across the country. In Silicon Valley, fewer veterans will look at those flags while living on the streets.

All the Way Home, a campaign launched in 2015 to help end the homeless veterans crisis, has housed 2,201 veterans during the past seven years. The program is deemed a success in Santa Clara County, according to Destination: Home, a nonprofit that helps house the homeless.

In 2020, the campaign housed 278 veterans, which is more than the 163 veterans seeking help. The campaign milestone is labeled “functional zero.”

“These people served us,” Janine Burrier, assistant director of housing at the Santa Clara County Housing Authority, told San José Spotlight. “This was something people could wrap their heads around and get behind and see if we were willing to do the work it takes to house homeless veterans. What a great population to house.”

Functional zero is a term used to measure how effective housing efforts are. An initiative reaches functional zero when there are more people being housed in a program than there are people asking for housing.

“Reaching functional zero is an incredible milestone that is a testament to the collective efforts of our community to take care of our veterans,” Consuelo Hernandez, director of the Santa Clara County Office of Supportive Housing, told San José Spotlight. “Veterans have served and sacrificed for our nation and this is part of our mission to make sure our area remains livable for the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Destination: Home said this year it housed more veterans than those who became homeless. Photo courtesy of Destination: Home.

Even with these results, some advocates take it upon themselves to help homeless veterans. Karen Gillette, a local parishioner, says she’s been working with a disabled homeless veteran for more than two years to get him housed. Even with the massive influx of county money for affordable housing, Gillette says it’s still a struggle getting veterans housed, especially near essential transit centers.

“He has to be in a place that’s either close to a bus line or where there’s a shuttle provided. He can’t drive,” said Gillette, who attends Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in San Jose. Trinity is one of the many churches that partners with All the Way Home, though Gillette has been helping veterans on her own time. “It’s important to keep in mind that veterans have particular needs and services they need to be able to get to. It’s not easy to find housing for veterans locally.”

In 2015, the region’s power players that address homelessness got together on Veterans Day to launch the All the Way Home campaign, headed by Destination: Home, Santa Clara County, San Jose and a myriad of nonprofits across the region to address the ever-present homeless veteran crisis.

According to numbers from the National Alliance to End Homelessness, 37,572 veterans experienced homelessness in 2020 nationwide.

The campaign provides resources such as housing vouchers to veterans who have applied to the program and works with landlords to provide financial incentives who lease to veterans.

Now that the campaign has reached functional zero,  Destination: Home plans to focus efforts on other homeless initiatives, while maintaining the All the Way Home campaign.

The county and city have looked into various programs to put a dent into the exploding homelessness crisis in the city. In 2019, the number of unhoused residents exceeded 9,700 countywide. A new count was set for this year, but the county canceled its biennial homeless census in January citing COVID-19 concerns.

“Despite our progress addressing veteran homelessness, we know our work is not done,” Hernandez said. “A lack of affordable housing and income inequality across our community means thousands of residents, including veterans, are at risk of becoming homeless every day. The county and our partners will continue to provide assistance and services that meet the needs of our veteran neighbors.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: Destination: Home CEO Jennifer Loving serves on San José Spotlight’s board of directors.

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