On this Veterans Day, we’re celebrating important progress in ending veteran homelessness in Santa Clara County. The All the Way Home campaign – a strategic partnership between public, private, and non-profit organizations – has housed 1,940 homeless veterans in the last five years, and for a second straight year, the number of homeless veterans housed have exceeded the number seeking housing assistance for the first time.
In addition to our work connecting homeless veterans to permanent housing, All the Way Home partners have also helped connect 114 homeless veterans to a motel/hotel room since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Launched on Veterans Day 2015 by San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese, the campaign has worked to increase housing opportunities for veterans in our community and connect veterans in-need to available rental units.
Additional Rental Units are Still Needed
Landlords and apartment owners are a key component of the All the Way Home progress.
To hear more about the experience, Destination: Home connected with one of the participating landlords, Don Tietgens, an Army Veteran who owns and manages two rental properties in the Downtown San Jose area in his retirement. Don has been participating in the All the Way Home initiative since the program’s start five years ago, connected to the program via the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). (The following interview has been edited slightly for clarity.)
What motivated you to participate in the All the Way Home Campaign and help house homeless veterans?
As a landlord I am a businessman, and I need to occupy my properties. If I can do so while also housing veterans who are homeless, all the better. I heard about this effort on the news and followed up with the VA to get involved. I’m a vet myself and this is an ideal way to support. At any given time 70-80% of my tenants are veterans.
When you hear that you’ve helped house more than 1,900 Veterans, how do you feel?
Encouraged! That’s a large number.
What would you like to share with your fellow landlords?
Bottom line, this program helps landlords do a good thing. All landlords have to keep their heads above water, and what a wonderful way to do so with this program. I’m more involved in my properties than the average landlord, and that is key to success here. It’s a give and take. I meet with each potential tenant and understand that some of these veterans have personal issues they’re working on. I do need to make an extra effort, but mutual respect is key. And I can really sing the praises of the VA, working with their coordinators and counselors on this program.
Any stories you’d like to share from your experience?
I know all my vets by first name. I have a personal relationship with several of them and have employed them around the properties. As you work with them, you get to know them and learn about their personal lives. It’s a bonus to get to know them on that personal level if they’re open to it, and see their skills and talents come through. One is a painter and sculptor, another is a chef, and a third is a great gardener. It’s personally rewarding to experience that relationship and learn from them.
Collaboration Across the Community
The All the Way Home campaign is currently led by the City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara County Housing Authority and Destination: Home, in partnership with public, private and non-profit partners from across the community, including: the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Goodwill of Silicon Valley, HomeFirst, Nation’s Finest, Health Trust, Lockeed Martin and Opera San Jose.