As we recently celebrated our nation’s independence on July 4th with parades, barbecues and fireworks, we also saluted our service members who sacrifice so much for that freedom. No veteran who has served our nation should be forgotten.
Sadly, many veterans still live on the streets without a place to call home. For some of them, serving overseas has left them scarred with physical wounds or mental illnesses like PTSD or depression, which affect their ability to find a full-time job. No serviceman or woman who has made sacrifices to protect our great nation should have to worry about where their next meal will come from or where they will find shelter. They deserve better.
California is home to the largest population of homeless veterans. Almost 25 percent of all homeless veterans in the United States live in our state. In Orange County alone, there are over 500 homeless veterans without a place to call home. This is a tragedy.
Recently, a package of bills known as the “No Place Like Home” bills were introduced in the Legislature to help the homeless and mentally ill. These measures will help end homelessness and improve treatment for the mentally ill in California. However, it was very important to me that any proposal to reduce the homeless population include a component to help veterans. Assembly Republicans and I secured $10 million for homeless veterans as part of the No Place Like Home proposal. This $10 million will be used to create transitional housing shelters for homeless veterans. Transitional and supportive housing combines a place to live with the treatment and aid they need to get back on their feet.
With so many special interests in Sacramento fighting for a piece of the taxpayer pie, it is important to have champions for our veterans. And this was just a small part of my ongoing efforts to make veterans a priority. For those who need help finding a home, I wrote Assembly Bill 388 to make sure that funds being used from the Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Fund were being used effectively. This legislation requires local governments and nonprofits to complete reports on how funds for veteran housing are spent. Funds meant to be spent on housing for low-income and homeless veterans should go to them, not to pay for consultants or administrative costs. This bill was passed and signed into law by the governor.
Among the many other pro-veteran bills I have co-authored are proposals to assist our men and women who served in uniform to receive unemployment benefits, and to help those suffering from substance abuse.
To help veterans who are returning home from service and looking for employment outside of the military, I co-authored legislation to give veterans a better chance of being hired. Assembly Bill 1383 would give veterans a preference to be hired for any job. Helping veterans get a job after their military career will help them afford a place to live and stay off the street.
In addition to helping veterans find a job and a place to live, we should encourage efforts to bring awareness to the struggles they face. Recently, I challenged Assembly members on both sides of the aisle to join me in performing 22 pushups for 22 days to highlight the astonishing fact that 22 veterans take their own lives every day. We can continue to support our veterans and let them know we are here for them after they were there for us.
Anyone that serves our country deserves to come home knowing they will be thanked, honored and respected in their time of need. I will continue to do my part to ensure our veterans have a good job, a place to live and a supportive community.