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Sam Liccardo: Let’s bring our veterans ‘All the Way Home’

In the last year, San Jose has had much to celebrate. We’ve welcomed the thousands of jobs created by the expansion of tech giants Apple and Samsung, as well as fast-scaling companies Splunk and Xactly. We’ve christened three new international flights from our airport, witnessed an unprecedented revitalization of our downtown, and cut the ribbons on a half-dozen new manufacturing facilities, dozens of retail stores, three college campuses and even a soccer stadium. Job growth in San Jose and our county exceeds that of any other metropolitan area in the United States.

Yet after this growth spurt has run its course, history will not forgive us if we do not ensure that the rising tide has lifted those still gasping for air. As thousands of families struggle amid fast-rising housing costs, we have much work to do to lift all boats together.

On this Veterans Day, we would do well to start with those who have sacrificed so much for us, yet remain in need. Roughly 700 homeless veterans live in Santa Clara County’s streets, creeks and shelters. As of September, more than 250 of our homeless veterans possess vouchers that would enable them to pay a modest rent for an apartment — if there was a landlord willing and able to accept them. Last year, only half of veterans with vouchers succeeded in getting off the street, confronted by mercurial rents and a tight housing inventory.

We can — and we will — end veterans’ homelessness in our community. It will take all of us working together, but Wednesday’s launch of our “All the Way Home” campaign shows that we have a strong and growing coalition committed to ensuring a dignified home for every veteran.

Led by Destination: Home, Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, and myself, “All the Way Home” aligns community organizations around a mission of expanding the supply of safe, affordable housing accessible to homeless vets.

San Jose Housing Director Jacky Morales-Ferrand and I will announce Wednesday a $5 million initiative to incentivize landlords to accept voucher-carrying homeless vets by co-investing in the renovation of those apartments. Thursday, we’ll convene dozens of leaders of our faith communities who will engage their members in a “Housing One Hero” campaign to reach out to veterans in need. Leading vet organizations, such as Veterans Empowering Veterans and Veterans’ Voices, are working with Vice Mayor Rose Herrera to rally strongly behind the cause.

Tuesday, my City Council colleagues voted to renovate a dilapidated apartment building on Vermont Street to house veterans, and last month we approved the purchase of the first of many motels that we’ll be rehabilitating to provide transitional housing for the homeless. We’re also exploring a housing bond that could generate hundreds of millions of dollars for high-quality affordable housing near transit and job centers, provide down payment assistance for local teachers, firefighters and police officers, and reduce homelessness among veterans and other vulnerable populations.

In addition, Supervisor Cortese has launched a task force with community leaders that has identified a set of promising policy options for all of our homeless — youth, families, veterans, and disabled adults. His county colleagues have made unprecedented investments in supportive services for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health, and job placement for successful re-entry of probationers, and the Housing Authority has stepped up its commitment of hundreds of rental vouchers for homeless residents.

We can do more, but only with all of us working together. You can help or learn more at www.AllTheWayHomeCampaign.org, and together, we can bring our veterans all the way home.

Sam Liccardo is mayor of San Jose. He wrote this article for this newspaper.