The Orange County Board of Supervisors Tuesday approved a plan that they hope will end homelessness among veterans by the end of next year.
The goal is to get approximately 300 veterans into affordable housing at least by next year.
“We are going to end veteran homelessness by December of 2020, which is a really great goal for the county, but we need to expedite those efforts,” said board Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett. “We have to get people out of shelters and into permanent supportive housing.”
Eighty veterans have gone through a vetting process and have vouchers for affordable housing, but Bartlett said it is important that county officials walk them through the process.
“To help them secure that individual unit for that particular veteran is really critical because they don’t have the wherewithal to pick up a phone and make all those calls to find a unit that by then might already be taken,” Bartlett said.
The board approved spending $200,000 to help the 80 veterans get into affordable permanent housing.
The most recent survey of the county’s homeless concluded there were 311 veterans in shelters or out on the streets. Nearly one-third had access to shelter and nearly half were chronically homeless.
Several activists criticized the county for not doing more to provide affordable housing, prompting Supervisor Andrew Do to fire back and accuse them of distorting what officials have been doing to address the problem.
“When this board is being called ignorant, when our staff is being attacked and compared to Nazi death camp guards… it’s time to push back,’ Do said.
Do accused the critics of “misleading the public to further some kind of agenda.”
Do added that the county cannot solve the problem alone.
“We have as much power over cities as you do,” Do said. “We can’t go into cities and say we’re going to open this shelter, open that mental health service… We are a facilitator. We are the people who provide the gap funding or to make services happen and that’s what we have been doing.”
County officials have “bent over backwards to create a system of care out of nothing,” Do said. “We had nothing as of three years ago. Now we have almost 2,000 shelter beds and a pipeline of almost 1,500 affordable housing units.”
Orange County Supervisor Doug Chaffee said the county has had to focus more on shelters because of the federal litigation, but that the goal is to get the transients into permanent housing, “which takes time to create.”
Chaffee added, “It seems to be a thankless job. I only hear complaints here, but there has been a lot of effort from a good many people not just in the county, but the nonprofits and others who give a lot of time.”