Hope for Homeless Los Angeles Veterans

We see them everyday, haunting busy intersections and freeway off ramps. They gaze into our cars, hoping for a handout or even just eye contact–some small show of acknowledgment. Many of them hold weathered, cardboard signs proclaiming their status: Homeless Veteran.

Los Angeles has the highest concentration of homeless vets in the country: about 20,000 according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. That could be slightly eased, though, if a proposal to renovate Buildings 4 and 5 on the Veterans Affairs campus in the valley is successful.

The department is considering plans to transform the buildings, damaged in the 1994 Northridge quake and most recently used for film shoots, into permanent housing for homeless vets. If the plan is approved and the long-term lease signed, the project will also include social services and counseling.

Two nonprofit groups would be brought in to oversee the project: New Directions and A Community of Friends.

“To have 20,000 homeless vets and have these buildings used for movie shoots, we need to reprioritize about what we are doing in this country,” said Toni Reinis, executive director of New Directions, the nonprofit group that would run the facility.

Still, the proposed $40 million makeover faces some uncertainty. New Directions must raise the money for it, though Ms. Reinis said it was already lining up potential sources, and it faces objections from the congressman who represents the area, Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat, as well as some people living nearby.

New Directions and A Community of Friends hope to convert the buildings into 147 subsidized apartments and would aim to offer extended, long-term care and housing.

Resources:
Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority
Homeless Health Care Los Angeles
My Friend’s Place
Habitat for Humanity, Greater L.A.

2 Replies to “Hope for Homeless Los Angeles Veterans”

  1. Community of Friends seems to do a fine job. They have evolved into great housing providers. It is good to see that they will be working on this issue.

    One of the problems I have is the ignorance of those in Westwood opposed to the project. They want the VA to make sure that the land is only used for veterans and that the VA only provides transitional housing and not allow any alcohol use on site. I think what they are afraid of is creating a skid row.

    In order to not create a skid row , one must first understand the reason skid row is skid row. Skid Row’s services began as only catering to the single male. IN order to prevent a skid row from happening in Westwood one must first make sure that all types of permanent supportive housing is created on site. You must have the full gammut of the continuum of care. You must have transitional housing , permanent supportive housing , and yes ladies and gentlemen transitional housing for families. You may be asking , but why ?

    Well , if you have transitional housing and do not allow veterans to drink and are so stuck on that rule , what you will have are vets , coming from all over to move into that housing who can’t hack the rules and are told to leave and they wind up on the streets of westwood. Transitional housing allows a person to sober up , in order to move into permanent supportive housing either on site or off site, and then maybe out into the community somewhere, but here is the kicker , if a person can not handle independent living there is the option of being once again moved into the transitional housing instead of onto the street.

    Veterans also need to have family with them . It would behoove the community to allow Dependants to also live on site , this will prevent whole families from becoming homeless and also creates a culture of nimbys where families will not tolerate a skid row type of environment.

    The opposition in Westwood would be wise to take
    heed to this advice. Many veterans self-medicate due to post traumatic stress disorder. It is not an easy thing to forget those battlefield memories and trying to control these vets , who already are out of the military( while in the military where there are ABC stores on the bases and the liquor is cheap , thus they are encouraged to indulge in those behaviors-in a way), and to try to make it into a regimented life is going to turn many homeless veterans away. Many take advantage of the situation. But I can guarantee you that if you try and only have transitional housing you will have a barrack’s type of mentality and you will turn westwood into a military town. Take heed for what you ask for. Because I feel that you don’t know what you are asking for.

    Also the reason that there is opposition is that people seem to think that you can get ton’s of money for the housing. There are different sources of funding for the housing and yes , I would prefer the site only be used for vets, but in order to qualify for subsidies from -Example- section 8 – you can’t discriminate based on anything. Thus , there are a lot of things people do not understand when securing the funding to build this type of housing. But be warned , only transitional housing and you know what military towns are like , well that is what you will get.

  2. How soon can this project get off the ground and if so how do you get every veteran off the street whether they have mental illness or drug addiction or no job, can this project which sounds very promising work ? The reality veteran’s are suffering and dying in the streets. This project should be top priority. Remember, soon, those soldiers in Iraq, soon to be veteran’s are coming home many already have come home and are homeless; they are going to need major help so i hope this program on the table becomes reality and not just another wasteless, futile dialouge to appease the people. It sounds very pleasing to my ear but until every veteran is off the street this means nothing.

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