Local group sets short deadline to raise $500,000 to help veterans land apartments

Daniel Harmon, a veteran of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, looks out the window of his room at the Hollywood Veterans Center in Los Angeles. The facility provides housing to homeless vets.
Daniel Harmon, a veteran of the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, looks out the window of his room at the Hollywood Veterans Center in Los Angeles. The facility provides housing to homeless vets.
David P Gilkey/NPR

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A local group launched a fundraising campaign this week that would help hundreds of homeless veterans in LA get into apartments. 

The Mayor's Fund announced Wednesday that it would raise $500,000 by the end of 2015, and use the money to help the veterans clear the obstacles that have long kept them from finding homes. The group is using the social media hashtag #HomesForHeroes.

Mayor Eric Garcetti doesn't dictate where the money from The Mayor's Fund is spent, but the group exists to support programs that Garcetti identifies as important, which includes helping homeless veterans. The fund has been around since it was created in 2014.

Back in June of 2014 Garcetti took a pledge with First Lady Michelle Obama to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. That's not going to happen, as thousands of vets remain homeless in the county. As of September, the mayor revised his pledge, saying that the goal wouldn't be reachable, due, in part, to the rise of the homeless population in the city.

According to Connie Llanos, a spokeswoman for the Mayor, the new goal is July 2016. She said that about 4,600 homeless veterans have found permanent housing since January 2014, but that about four veterans per day are falling into homelessness. And currently 2,000 veterans still need housing within the city, she said.

In planning this initiative, The Mayor's Fund identified 500 veterans who were already close to securing housing, said Deidre Lind, the fund's President.

These veterans already have housing vouchers from the federal government to cover rent on future apartments, but still need money for security deposits, basic furniture and moving expenses. Lind said that they estimate it'll cost an average of $1,000 per person..

Some homeless vets who have housing vouchers also struggle to land apartments because they have to compete with other renter applicants in Southern California's hot housing market. Christine Margiotta with the United Way explained that her organization has been identifying and working with landlords who are willing to take the vouchers and will help direct homeless veterans to them.

"The biggest thing they need is that landlord to take a chance on them and say, 'Yes, you can live in my unit,'" she said.

According to Lind from The Mayor's Fund, they've secured about 200 landlords who are willing to provide housing to vets. In total they're reaching out to about 1000 landlords.