Memorial Day serves as a great reminder to recognize all of the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. For those who make it back, they are faced with many challenges that can lead them to be unhoused. Despite their years of service to this Country, veterans represent a disproportionate number of the homeless population.
A year ago, the Veterans Housing Facility opened its doors in San Jose to help veterans transition to permanent housing. The facility was previously located in Menlo Park as part of the Veterans Affairs (VA) Palo Alto Health Care System. They have been open for 14 years and have helped more than 7,000 veterans.
“Our mission is to keep veterans from being homeless,” said Kyle Terzian, program manager. “We just had one guy come in from North Carolina. It doesn’t matter where the veteran is at anywhere in the country if they can make it here and they need housing and support, that’s what we’ll do.”
Studies indicate that the needs of veterans are unique, and experience higher rates of mental health and substance dependence problems. The facility offers a number of services that include job placement programs, relapse prevention classes. There is Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings and Alcoholic Anonymous (AA) meetings. The facility also offers church services on Sundays.
There are different reasons why veterans end up unhoused. “There’s no one reason. I mean there’s a guy going through a divorce and there’s another guy dealing with the economic downfall. Some couldn’t afford to live in the Silicon Valley and they’ve worked all their life,” said Terzian.
The facility works with veterans who were trying to survive on fixed incomes. The oldest homeless veterans they currently serve are in their 80’s. It is also serving a 24-year-old Afghanistan War veteran.
“We’re real successful because people come here and they leave with permanent housing,” said Terzian.
The facility is a non-profit organization that receives partial funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as charitable funding from community organizations and corporations. They do outreach and get referrals primarily from VA and other agencies.
Currently the facility has 25 treatment beds, 125 transitional housing beds equipped with TV’s, DirecTV, Wi-Fi, and a bathroom. A veteran can stay on the San Jose campus for up to two years. It all depends on their situation.
Every veteran is different, their needs are different, so the facility works with them 0n an individual basis. To be eligible, the veteran must be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, willing to participate in VA health care, totally independent, capable of staying clean and sober, willing to participate in therapy work, free of tuberculosis exposure, and medically and psychologically stable. “It’s more important than I can even describe. I mean we have 130 beds. That’s 130 people that aren’t on the street. 130 veterans who have a place to stay rather than the street or a shelter,” said Terzian.