To meet the worthy goal of ending homelessness for veterans, landlords and the human services community must do more.
THERE are 662 homeless military veterans in King County. The county knows that because it has a list, built from federal Veterans Affairs records and homeless client databases. Each vet has a housing rental voucher thanks to the Obama administration’s federal pledge of resources. Cities, including Seattle, Renton and Redmond, have stepped up to the goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of the year.
All that needs to happen now is to connect the vets, the vouchers and willing landlords. The effort, called Operation: WelcomeOneHome, launched Monday with fanfare.
The paperwork logistics is a fixable problem to achieve a worthwhile goal. Let’s get it done.
If you are a homeless veteran, you can call 877-904-8387 to sign up. Landlords can find more information by calling 206-336-4616 or visiting onehomekc.org.
Complicating the effort is the superheated local rental market. Although more than 400 veterans have already been housed, the effort to end veteran homelessness is about 100 vets behind the pace to achieve the goal by year end, said Mark Putnam, head of the Committee to End Homelessness in King County.
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New Orleans has already met its goal, finding housing for all its homeless veterans — so has Houston, and Phoenix is close. But other high-cost West Coast cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, are similarly struggling, said Katy Miller, a Seattle-based regional coordinator for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
To get those 662 Seattle-area vets housed, landlords must be willing to accept more risky renters — addiction, illness or criminal activity can flow from the trauma of war. But the federal rental vouchers — similar to Section 8 vouchers — include an array of social services from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Landlords must also be willing to accept the rate of payment, which is deeply subsidized, based on a vet’s income. The local agencies and nonprofits seeking to connect vets and landlords must also be more nimble.
One landlord said a slow flow of information from nonprofits — including eligible vets and relevant rental histories — means he has to keep an apartment open for two weeks that otherwise could be rented immediately. A quicker turnaround would entice more landlords.
Sounds like a fixable problem for Seattle’s tech intelligentsia. If Uber can be delivered curbside in minutes and a bed delivered to your doorstep in a day, why couldn’t a list of eligible vets be linked online to rental housing providers? Surely, there’s an app for this.
The least our country can do is to ensure that members of our armed forces are not left on the streets.