O’side launches program to reward renting to veterans

OCEANSIDE — Oceanside recently launched a Landlord Participation Program to reward landlords who rent to veterans in the VASH housing voucher program.

VASH vouchers are federally funded payments for all or part of veterans’ housing.

Oceanside uses its awarded vouchers to aid chronically homeless veterans who are referred to the city by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“The average client needs two years of supportive services,” Angela Hanifin, city housing program manager, said. “Others (elderly and disabled) need support services for the rest of their lives.”

Veterans in the program have a VA case manager assigned to them, who helps them secure services, set goals and become productive members of the community. The case manager is also a contact person for landlords.

The city’s new incentive program gives landlords a $250 bonus payment for each new unit leased to VASH renter, and a $1,000 renter’s deposit for property damages. The incentives are funded by Section 8 program reserves.

The measures help landlords feel more secure in renting to a previously homeless veteran, who has a poor financial record. Similar reward programs are used throughout San Diego County.

“It’s helping encourage landlords to participate in the program, and house somebody who has been out on the streets, and doesn’t have a good credit history, or sometimes good mental health history, and give them a chance,” Margery Pierce, city Neighborhood Services director, said. “It’s insurance for them.”

Oceanside has received annual VASH vouchers for the past few years, and put most vouchers to use.

In November 2016, the city received 45 VASH vouchers, which amounted to $417,154 in veteran housing and program administration.

Pierce said overall the rental agreements have been successful, and in some cases led to long-term housing.

Challenges to housing homeless veterans remain.

The tight rental market, and poor credit history of veterans in the VASH program, makes finding needed studio and one-bedroom housing difficult.

There is also a large homeless veteran population, and limited staff to process veterans into the program, which causes delays and lengthens the time veterans remain without a home or services.

The Regional Taskforce on the Homeless, 2016 Point in Time Count, recorded 1,381 homeless veterans in San Diego County. Most of the county’s homeless veterans entered the military between 1976 and 1990, served post-Vietnam, and were honorably discharged.

The city’s goal is to end veteran homelessness and all city homelessness.

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