Construction of a 20-unit apartment complex to house low-income, homeless veterans on Humbert Avenue in San Luis Obispo is nearing completion, and the applications are flooding in.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015, the population of veterans in SLO County was about 19,000. Housing Authority of San Luis Obispo (HASLO) Executive director Scott Smith said the nonprofit is seeing that a portion of the veteran population is having difficulty finding housing in a county where vacancies and affordability are scarce.
The apartment complex is a continuation of HASLO’s effort to assist veterans in locating affordable housing. The nonprofit is also working with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to assist vets with their rental expenses through a Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Voucher program. With the program, veterans independently find an apartment with a landlord willing to accept the voucher and HASLO pays a portion of the rent on behalf of the veteran.
To be eligible, a veteran must be homeless and referred to HASLO by the VA. Smith said that the nonprofit is already helping about 200 veterans with the program, but apartment vacancies are still an obstacle.
“We were finding some veterans that, even though we were willing to help them with their rent, they weren’t finding a vacant apartment,” Smith said.
Another issue is the locations of available apartments—usually remote, far away from simple resources such as a grocery store or a bank.
“Most vets don’t have cars, and we found that the location is really good because it’s right off of Broad Street, so it’s really close to all kinds of services that a person might need,” Smith said.
The 20-unit complex, called 860 on the Wye, sets aside 10 of its units specifically for veterans who are homeless and have a referral from the VA. The apartment complex is also going to have amenities such as a community garden, community center, an onsite manager, and a resident services staff to assist the residents with job applications as well as information about the VA services they are eligible for.
“Our hope is that the veterans that reside there that have been homeless can really rebuild their lives and become the best that they can be,” Smith said, “it’s really hard to do that when you don’t have a place to live.”
David Guiterrez, a county Veterans Services administrator, said that they’re excited about the project because it will create a supportive community for veterans who can relate to one another.
Applications will be accepted through the end of the month for early consideration, but Smith said HASLO will accept applications submitted beyond the end of January.