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San Jose Asks Churches, Faith Groups to House Homeless Vets

Of the 700 homeless military veterans in San Jose, about a third have a housing voucher and nowhere to use it. City officials have asked 250 local churches, mosques, synagogues and other religious congregations to each commit to housing at least one.

Mayor Sam Liccardo unveiled the “Housing One Hero” campaign earlier this week. The idea is to task each church and religious group to find a home for the veteran under their watch. They could do that by finding a willing landlord, designating church property as veteran housing or finding someone in the congregation with a spare room to rent.

“We have a moral obligation to ensure that nobody who faithfully served our country has to live without a roof over their heads,” Liccardo said in a statement. “By leveraging the passion and inspiration of our local faith organizations, we can make great strides in our drive to end veteran homelessness in our community.”

Some 15 faith-based groups have joined the effort, including GateWay City Church, Evergreen Valley Church, Cathedral of Faith, Hope101.org and Jubilee.

“Churches and faith-based organizations can play a crucial part in ending veteran homelessness,” said David Cannistraci, lead pastor of Gateway City Church. “There are 260 homeless vets right here in our community who already have a federally-subsidized housing voucher but can’t find a landlord willing to rent to them. If the faith-based community steps up, we can house each and every one of them.”

While the main goal is to find housing, the campaign also asks local religious groups to help with other needs, such as furnishing apartments, conducting outreach and otherwise inviting the person into their congregation.

Housing One Hero is part of a regional initiative called “All the Way Home,” which is being led by Destination: Home, Mayor Liccardo and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. The goal is to house all 700-plus unsheltered veterans in the region by 2018.

“The faith community is critical to our community’s work in ending veteran homelessness,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home. “They not only can help house a veteran, but can provide the community and emotional support. A house is four walls and a roof, but a home is so much more, and our faith partners can help us make sure all veterans have a home.”