SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Californians will be voting on reconfiguring veteran housing funding on this June's ballot. California currently has more than $1 billion dedicated to encourage veterans to buy homes but the state only awarded 83 home loans to veterans in 2012.
In 2003 the Department of Veterans Affairs issued 1,130 new home loans and had 20,169 active loans.
The department has approved 172 new home loans since March this year which is valued at about $44.5 million.
Currently there are only 7,913 active veteran housing loans causing some lawmakers to call for $600 million of the dedicated $1 billion veteran home loan fund to go towards providing low rent apartments for veterans.
Proposition 41 would set aside $600 million in previously approved voter bonds for nonprofit agencies and local governments to provide and manage veteran rentals.
"We have resources to help them with their deposits, their first month's rent, intensive case management but the housing surplus just isn't there", says Kirsten Cahoon with the non-profit Good Samaritan Shelters which operates homeless shelters and other services at locations in Santa Maria and Lompoc, "we're finding absolutely no housing for these people."
"We housed about, I think, about 18 vets last year in Santa Maria-Lompoc area, but that doesn't even touch on the ones that are in here looking for housing", Cahoon adds, "I mean getting jobs, and all of those things but then they run into this bottleneck of there is no housing."
California has by far the largest number of veterans and homeless veterans in the nation.
Of the nearly two million veterans living in California, more than 15,000 vets do not have have access to stable housing.
"I was at a Veterans Stand Down in San Luis Obispo this weekend", Cahoon says, "this young veteran, I mean he must have been in his early 20's, came up and I'm like, how long have you been homeless? And he said the minute he got home from his last tour in Afghanistan, he became homeless and his comment to me was 'you don't understand the things I had to see', because I asked him, what's going to get you out of homelessness, what's going on? But he's so deep into mental illness and the PTSD and things like that."
"We just don't have the services to wrap around him right now and put him into housing where he's going to be able to get back on his feet", Cahoon acknowledges, "its heartbreaking to see, I mean these are people that put their lives on the line for us and so now we really need to do what we can especially through things like this (Prop 41) and start making a difference for them."
Opponents of Proposition 41 argue diverting state bond money away from its intended purpose of providing financial support for veterans seeking mortgage loans in favor of rental housing sets a dangerous precedent and opens the door to mismanagement and corruption.
To read more about California Proposition 41 on the June Primary Election ballot go to: http://voterguide.sos.ca.gov/propositions/41/