By Lana Harrison | Downtown Partnership News
“I was driving a truck and I didn’t know how to do anything else that would make good money,” said Tori Wilson.
Wilson, who served in the Air Force in the late 1980s and early ’90s, was about to have a son. She had recently separated from her husband, and like so many other veterans, was struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other disabilities.
The soon-to-be mother needed to find a way to adequately care and provide for her child. For a while, she traveled around the country looking for a place to settle, until finally landing at a friend’s house in San Diego. After that situation didn’t prove safe or sustainable, Wilson called 2-1-1.
“I don’t want my son sleeping in a tent on the street,” she said.
That’s when she was able to connect with Alpha Project, who quickly moved Wilson and her son into temporary housing through the Housing Our Heroes program. After applying for a HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher to receive a permanent residence, Wilson still needed financial assistance to keep a roof over her head while she waited for the application to go through.
Through a series of connections, she was able to meet with Ketra, one of the Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Clean & Safe program’s homeless outreach coordinators.
Wilson’s situation was a perfect match to receive funds from the Make Change Count program, which consists of 25 parking meter-style donation stations located throughout Downtown. Funds from this program can make a housing deposit, meal cards, bus passes or baby formula a reality for another family or individual, and Make Change Count provided Wilson with rental assistance as she waited to transition into permanent housing.
“It’s a waiting game for a voucher and a place to stay, which I knew wouldn’t happen quickly,” Wilson said. “If they hadn’t helped me, I would be on the streets with my son.”
The beginning of Wilson’s story is, tragically, not uncommon and this past year has undeniably been a tough one for those in our community who also call the streets home.Still, like Wilson’s experience with Alpha Project and Make Change Count, there are positive stories in 2017 that give us hope for the year ahead.Take Clean & Safe’s Family Reunification Program, for example.
This year, in partnership with the San Diego Housing Commission, 400 homeless individuals were reunited with family and friends throughout the country via the program. Connecting individuals and families with support systems can make all the difference in the lives of people transitioning off the street.The city’s bridge shelters, opened in collaboration with Father Joe’s Villages, Alpha Project and Veteran’s Village of San Diego, are also operational and ready to transition homeless individuals and families into permanent housing and services to help build new lives. The County of San Diego also expects to be able to lift the emergency status of hepatitis A by the end of this month.Though the challenges of 2017 are not quite behind us and 2018 will certainly present new ones, these small victories can serve as a catalyst for continued efforts and opportunities in the new year.
We are excited to build off the success of the Family Reunification Program to help another 400 people connect with the support systems they need for sustained safety and health in 2018.
Wilson has lived in her permanent home for about a year now. Her son attends school and is receiving the care he needs to adjust to a new way of life, while Wilson has found that baking is her own form of therapy. She makes calls to friends and stays connected with people from the Air Force who live in the area — one of whom has been a great role model to her son. And Alpha Project still calls to check in once in a while.While Wilson doesn’t hold too many expectations for 2018, she still has things she tentatively looks forward to. They’re things like establishing a schedule, finding new friends, getting on top of doctor’s appointments, and finding work — regular, everyday-life things.
“It’s so nice to have a home phone number, to have a house phone,” Wilson said. “It’s the simple things in life people don’t realize are so special.”To learn more about Downtown San Diego Partnership’s Clean & Safe program, visit downtownsandiego.org/clean-and-safe.
— Lana Harrison is the communications coordinator for the Downtown San Diego Partnership. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.