I have a message for the Solano County Board of Supervisors: Don’t talk the talk unless you can walk the walk. Many of the supervisors give lip service to homelessness and veterans. Yet at a recent meeting, they completely failed these constituencies by opposing 300 units of affordable housing in Fairfield. In an amazing display of elitism, they told formerly homeless veterans that this housing wasn’t good enough and that providing it to them would be a threat to Travis Air Force Base. As a disabled veteran, I can assure you that I am not a threat to anyone, let alone the military.
I am U.S. Army Veteran having served in the 101st Airborne and the National Guard. My service in the military led me to suffer with PTSD and I’ve dealt with depression, addiction, and homelessness for a lot of my life. My story is not uncommon – at last count, there were more than 150 homeless veterans in Solano County alone. Our elected officials need to be doing everything they can to get veterans like me, and other members of the community who need a safe, stable place to live, into more permanent housing.
I participated in the recent Solano County Board of Supervisors meeting where the Board opposed such an opportunity. The Georgetown development in Fairfield will provide nearly 300 100% affordable homes to members of the community. This includes 48 units of veterans supportive housing, meaning veterans living there would have services like counseling, help accessing benefits and more. The homes are located adjacent to Travis Air Force Base, where veterans like me could easily access services on base, including medical care at David Grant and shopping at the commissary.
After telling my story and listening to housing advocates and others describe how desperately-needed this housing is for the community, I had to listen to the Board members list excuse after excuse about why they won’t support the project. One Board member even insinuated that the inconvenience of having to drive to the grocery store from the Georgetown property outweighed the benefit that these homes provide.
I used to live near Travis AFB, but the high cost of housing forced me to move. Now I live in an unsafe neighborhood far away from the VA services I need. I would prefer to live in a community with other veterans and other likeminded people who are trying to stay on the right path. Therefore, it was extremely difficult to hear these Board members tell me that they know what is best for me. Have any of them ever been homeless? Have they ever experienced hunger pains, or wondered where their children will sleep? And they want to tell me this housing isn’t good enough?
But the ultimate reason they cited for their opposition is that they believe that the provision of affordable housing near Travis Air Force Base is a threat to the base. First, this is nonsense. Providing housing to people who need it doesn’t threaten TAFB. Second, given the many low-wage civilian jobs on the base that don’t support the local rent, and the number of homeless veterans in the community, I would think TAFB would be doing everything it can to help. In fact, the official position of Travis Air Force Base is that this is a local land use matter but that they “remain ready to engage with the city should they seek our assistance in supporting this project.” The County’s position is misguided at best and negligent at worst.
The good news is that, while the County has failed, they have no real say over whether or not the project becomes a reality. That responsibility is the City of Fairfield’s, and the city still has the chance to do the right thing and to help facilitate the rehabilitation of these units. Like the County, many on the Fairfield City Council also say they care about veterans, homelessness and affordable housing. So I ask the City Council, will you walk the walk and help nearly 1,000 of your housing-insecure residents find homes in Georgetown? Or, like the County, will you just give the local housing crisis lip service?