Living in a city where the winter months are filled with sunshine, many San Diegans celebrate the nearly perfect weather while the homeless of the city are faced with hardships that the more privileged habitually overlook. Estimates gauge that thirty to forty percent of San Diego’s homeless are veterans. This rate is higher than the national average, perhaps as a product of the city's proximity to military bases. In an effort to get those who served our country off the streets and into civilian life, Veterans Village of San Diego conducts outreach and housing programs to bring homeless veterans in from the cold.
The Veterans Village winter shelter project has housed many of San Diego's homeless veterans each year since 1997. VVSD organizes and oversees construction, staffing, and security for the project and collaborates with a number of San Diego organizations in order to provide the necessary services to shelter residents. Among its partners are St. Vincent de Paul Village, Pathfinders, Senior Community Center, and San Diego Superior Court.
The winter shelter program operates out of a large tent that functions as a dormitory for homeless veterans. Because the facility cannot accommodate both sexes, VVSD is unable to provide the same services to homeless women veterans. VVSD believes intensive treatment leads to self-sustaining independence and the fulfillment of human potential and for this reason offers residents not only shelter and basic necessities, but also provides mental health and substance abuse counseling, employment counseling, medical referrals, legal help, clothing and transportation assistance.
The shelter is staffed 24 hours a day with VVSD employees. Community Projects Coordinator for Veterans Village, Joshua Arntson, explained, “We like to hire veterans. Of all the people that are tied to us, veterans are typically the most responsive.” He continued:
"We aim to place homeless veterans into transitional housing, search for gainful employment, aid them with their VA benefits, and care for those with any potential disabilities. They are fed three times a day, and we hold AA and NA meetings twice a week, so it's not like these vets are just lying around. Most of our veterans served during Vietnam, but towards the end of the last shelter I began to notice that much younger veterans were using the program."
The shelter is currently under construction and will be opened on December 7. If you would like to work or volunteer at VVSD’s winter shelter this year, click here. Donations of toiletries and other necessities are also needed and can be dropped off to Veterans Village of San Diego located at 4141 Pacific Highway.