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Oceanside accepts vouchers to help homeless veterans

OCEANSIDE — City Council accepted 40 housing vouchers to help chronically homeless veterans on Dec. 2.

The city received word of the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers award in April. Thirty-four of the vouchers have already been put to use.

Angela Hanifin, city housing program manager, said 28 veterans who were receiving HUD assistance were switched to the VASH program, which includes support services.

Eight more were referred to city housing by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and provided with vouchers.

Hanifin said the city has four additional VASH vouchers to award, and a long waiting list.

“We’ll be using all of them in the next month or two,” Hanifin said. “We’re asking the VA to stop sending referrals.”

Veterans in the VASH program are classified by the VA as chronically homeless.

Most are single males. Some have health issues and need continued assistance. Others flourish under the program, and become financially self-sufficient.

The VASH program provides partial rent payments and a case management worker to council veterans to self-sufficiency.

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

Hanifin said the VASH program also assures landlords that veterans have someone to fall back on.

“They have someone to call when something goes wrong and they need supportive services,” Hanifin said.

Hanifin said a tight rental market has created challenges, but so far veterans in the program have been successfully housed.

VASH vouchers are reissued annually. The city is seeking additional vouchers next year.

Veterans must have an honorable discharge to be part of the VASH program. Hanifin said veterans who do not qualify can receive HUD assistance.

The city has already set aside 30 of its regular HUD vouchers to house the chronically homeless. Six of those vouchers were awarded to veterans who did not qualify for VASH.

The Regional Task Force on Homeless 2015 annual homeless count reported Oceanside has 49 unsheltered homeless veterans and San Diego County has 631. The count did not include the number of veterans in temporary shelters.

The national goal is to end veteran homelessness.