Scott Ball / Rivard Report
The City of San Antonio is getting a big financial boost from one of its largest companies in the fight against veteran homelessness as USAA pledged $2.1 million toward the local effort on Friday.
The 93-year-old Fortune 500 company, which employs more than 23,000 people nationwide, was inspired by the Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a campaign launched by the Obama administration in 2014, and undoubtedly by its membership which includes military personnel, veterans, and their families.
Family Endeavors, American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Program, and the South Alamo Regional Alliance for the Homeless (SARAH) will directly benefit from USAA's donation, Mayor Taylor said at City Hall on Friday.
The City, USAA and their various public and private sector partners seek to end local veteran homelessness by March 31 of this year. Taylor officially committed San Antonio to the campaign about one year ago. A community-based effort is needed to not only reach this goal, Taylor said, but to sustain zero veteran homelessness well into the future.
"Not only do we want to get homeless veterans off the streets, we want to keep them off," she said, and cooperation among local and other governmental agencies, businesses, faith-base groups and nonprofits is needed to sustain a "functionally zero" level of veteran homelessness in the long-run.
USAA CEO Stuart Parker said it was his company's inherent responsibility to join the City, the White House and other partners in trying to end veteran homelessness. About 300,000 veterans in the U.S. "do not have a safe or comfortable place to sleep. That is a national tragedy," Parker said.
USAA's $2.1 million pledge is "only the beginning," he added, and USAA will be prepared to do what it can in the future to help support the initiative.
Since joining the national challenge, more than 800 homeless veterans in San Antonio have moved or are in the process of moving into permanent housing, according to the City. More than 300 veterans are known to be living on the streets of San Antonio.
"We want San Antonio to be a role model for other cities," Parker said. "Let's make sure we have a sense of urgency to do the right thing because it is the right thing to do."
Family Endeavors is a national nonprofit that provides numerous programs and services in support of children, families, veterans and those struggling with mental illness and other significant disabilities. With nine offices statewide, including one on Bandera Road, Family Endeavors has been active with are public and private sector partners in addressing veteran homelessness in San Antonio.
The nonprofit locally employs nearly 100 veterans, and works to rapidly re-house or prevent homelessness for more than 5,000 veterans and their families each year.
Travis Pearson, CEO of Family Endeavors and board chairman for the South Alamo Regional Alliance, said no veteran should have to live on the streets.
A veteran himself, Pearson said USAA's investment will greatly help essential services and resources sought by homeless veterans to find safe, secure housing. For all that veterans have done to serve their country, it's his personal responsibility to help those fellow veterans in need, he said.
"With this gift, our community will establish a coordinated, real-time system for helping veteran families find services," said Pearson. "It'll provide more permanent housing and provide veteran navigators who will work directly with veterans to help them access the services they need as quickly as possible."
Mayor Taylor said one of the ongoing obstacles is that more new veterans are becoming homeless at a higher rate than the City expected.
"Additionally, the collaborative is challenged with identifying appropriate housing or properties that are willing to rent to homeless veterans who may have a history of eviction or low income," she said. "This contribution will help us to address those challenges to ensure we reach functional zero by a goal of March 31, 2016."
SARAH is seeking volunteer help for its annual point-in-time count and survey of the overall local homeless community. This year's count will be held on the night of Thursday, Jan. 21.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandates a count be held yearly nationwide. Collected data helps cities such as San Antonio to secure federal money to address local homelessness issues.
Call (210) 220-2382 for more information on how to help with the point-in-time count.Click here to learn more.
*Top image: USAA CEO Stuart Parker announces his company's donation of $2.1 million towards the fight against veteran homelessness. Photo by Scott Ball.