SAN JOSE, Calif. - Life just changed for homeless veteran Ana Espitia and her emotional support dog Harley after she was gifted an apartment with a year of free rent.
A ceremony for Espitia was held at Silver Apartments in San Jose’s midtown district on Wednesday to highlight the need to end homelessness for female veterans.
Espitia is a 10-year Navy veteran who was left unhoused after her critically ill mother died and their house was put up for sale. She lived out of her car for two months before she decided to reach out to the San Jose VA Clinic.
The office connected her with an organization called HomeFirst Services of Santa Clara County which has a veteran services division. HomeFirst Services CEO Andrea Urton said they established a public private partnership with Republic Urban Properties who offered to pay for Espitia’s rent for one year on a 15 month lease.
"I’ve been saying to my friends… I went through hell to get to heaven," Espitia said. "I’m in heaven. I really am."
Urton said female veterans are twice as likely to become homeless than those who are non-female veterans.
"Many of them who have been in battle have trauma, brain injuries, all different kinds of PTSD, mental health challenges that coupled with being homeless makes it harder to find their way out of homelessness," Urton said.
Urton encouraged veterans to reach out to their local VA offices for help and challenged other landlords to create partnerships to end homelessness for veterans. Michael Van Every, CEO of Republic Urban Properties, echoed those calls.
"We can end homelessness through public private partnerships like this where we bring in these incredible people," he said.
Espitia now has stability and a safe space to sleep at night. She noted that women veterans are often overlooked when it comes to homeless services.
"Females are left in between the gaps and we fall through and we just need to speak up and ask that we need help," she said.