(KRON) – While there were many events Friday honoring veterans, there still remains a harsh reality facing many of those who served… and that is the subject of housing. According to the California Research Bureau, the city has the sixth-highest number of homeless vets.
“When I think of Veterans Day, I think of my fellow soldiers and how we can support them,” said veteran Alan Wong.
Wong was called up to help first responders when a raging fire threatened to burn through South Lake Tahoe. Friday, as a legislative analyst for San Francisco supervisor Gordon Mar, Wong is on a new mission: to help struggling veterans.
“As an aide, I have worked on three key pieces of legislation,” Wong said.
One of those pieces tackles the problem of homelessness: putting veterans up at the top when it comes to the city’s affordable housing system. A 2019 survey by the San Francisco Point Group revealed there were about 600 chronically homeless veterans in the city, amounting to about nine percent of the chronically homeless population citywide.
“Currently in SF we have below market-rate housing that is subsidized, and there is often a lottery to get into those opportunities, so we created a priority preference for veterans,” he said.
Another measure gives those out on leave financial assistance.
“So, what it does is requires larger employers to pay the difference between civilian pay and military pay up to 30 days in a year if they are called to duty,” he said.
It also gives free access to all San Francisco parks, including the city’s pools, and places like the botanical gardens.
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“That piece of legislation is there to help support their mental and physical health of our veterans – to give them the respect they deserve,” he said.
Wong says he recognizes there is still so much work to be done to help vets and address their complex needs, but he is proud of what has been accomplished, especially on a day like Veterans Day.
“What does Veterans Day mean to you?” he asked. “It means honoring those who have given up so much, I have seen the sacrifice up close. I have seen what it takes.”