Thanks to NBC station 21 WFMJ for publishing the story of how Richard Valero the founder of Veterans Independence Project in San Diego worked tirelessly to secure housing for homeless Vets on Thursday, December 3rd, 2020.
The stated goal of the Veterans Independence Project (VIP) founded by Richard Valero in San Diego is to aid homeless veterans work their way back into society. The cornerstone of that goal is to provide permanent housing. Once that is done the process of enrolling in either college or technical training is begun. Once completed, VIP then helps the vet find employment.
The City of San Diego is planning on building a “Hotel” in downtown San Diego that will house about 200 homeless, though not just veterans.
Richard has secured permanent housing for about 400 homeless vets. But he did not do it on his own. A volunteer, a real estate agent by the name of Lou Torio was a major player in the securing of the housing. It did not happen overnight. Lou’s efforts were spread over nearly 5 years.
The initial drive on the part of Lou was to locate apartment buildings where the vets could be placed. He was hindered in reaching his goal was that VIP was being funded by small donations not nearly enough to buy or lease a property.
At one point an investor said he would front the money and buy property so they could get started and purchase a property. The first property found was a cute small property of 18 units in the exact location where they desired. Unfortunately, an agreement could not be reached between VIP and the owner. Then they spent quite a lot of time on a hotel of almost 100 rooms but the investor backed out before the deal could be completed.
Soon another Motel-like property was discovered that would have been very acceptable. In fact, there were 81 units in the complex. The owner was agreeable to a long escrow of one year. The owner of the property required a large deposit to sign the deal. Richard spent long hours searching for a donor but the sum was just too much to be raised in the time required so the deal could not be put to bed.
Fortunately, during that search, Richard met a retiree in San Diego who owns about 400 units in various parts of the city who was approached and asked if he would sell. He said “No” but then suggested a master lease to be held by VIP.
The agreement is that as a vacancy opens in the property, he will rent it to a homeless vet through VIP. The arrangement solved some major problems for the owner and gave VIP an opportunity to actively take action on its plans to house, educate and rehabilitate homeless vets in San Diego.
Today there are about 60 vets living in the units. Every one of them is enrolled in some form of education and well on their way to becoming productive citizens again.
Things have slowed down because of Covid-19 and the moratorium on rentals but VIP has another 50 to 60 vets on their waiting list who will get permanent housing as soon as things open up again.
Richard said “I could never have done this without Lou. His tenacity and never quit attitude went a long way in helping me stay positive through those tough times.”