VA details plan to eliminate veterans’ homelessness – By GALE HOLLAND Feb 2015

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs detailed its plan Friday to end veterans’ homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016, pledging to open its West Los Angeles campus to permanent and temporary housing, and to place returning service members and their families in subsidized apartments throughout the county.

A Navy veteran pushes his wheelchair backward in skid row. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

A Navy veteran pushes his wheelchair backward in skid row. (Brian van der Brug, Los Angeles Times)

The VA’s “action plan,” developed as part of a legal settlement, will prioritize severely disabled, mentally ill and women veterans for housing in largely abandoned buildings on its sprawling 387-acre property.

The agency will also develop entertainment and recreation facilities to make it a “place people want to live,” said attorney Gary Blasi of Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law, a civil rights group and part of the team that represented homeless veterans.

Veterans who choose to live elsewhere will receive services from strike teams of social workers, psychiatrists, housing and employment specialists and addiction counselors based on the VA’s West Los Angeles and North Hills campuses, and in offices in West Covina, Hollywood, Watts, Whittier and Carson.

Veterans will live where they want, not where the VA sends them, and the goal will be reunification with family and friends, Blasi said.

“The idea is from the point of first contact … the [housing] process begins and in the meantime they’re not turned back to the street, but basically given a place to stay either on campus or community,” Blasi said.

The plan does not say how much money the VA will spend, or how many veterans it will house, but promises to “allocate available resources as needed.” Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald, on a swing through Los Angeles last month to announce the settlement, said he was sending $50 million and 400 workers to the region.

“We’ve been told … we will have the resources and personnel to get the job done,” said Mark Rosenbaum, the director of the Public Counsel Opportunity Under Law.

The plan also calls for the VA to hire an urban planning firm to draw up a master land use plan for the West Los Angeles property and appoint a special assistant reporting to McDonald to run the effort. The VA will conduct a homeless count in January to gauge its progress.

“This plan demonstrates what can be accomplished for our nation’s veterans when we come together as a community — everyone working together toward the higher goal,” McDonald said in a written statement.


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