After Ending Veteran Homelessness, Riverside Looks to Help the Rest


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The city of Riverside is hoping its “Housing First” model of eliminating veteran homelessness to help non-veterans secure housing. The city has about 400 people living on the street. Photo: iStock

Michelle Martinez, an Air Force veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder, found herself homeless in 2011 after becoming the victim of a rental scam. The Riverside resident spent the next six years living with friends, and in shelters and motels.

Martinez, 45, was receiving Social Security Disability (Insurance) because of her PTSD, but “didn’t have the income to support myself or find new housing,” she said.

Today, Martinez is one of Riverside County’s success stories in its quest to help homeless residents rebuild their lives. In 2013, the County Board of Supervisors began a program to find permanent housing for every homeless veteran in the county. Since then, 1,100 homeless veterans have been placed into permanent housing, and last year, the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness named Riverside the first large county in California to end veteran homelessness. The county now operates at a “functional zero” status meaning that veteran homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring, and no veteran is forced to live on the streets.