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Housing and Homelessness

Unhoused Veterans Will Get New Apartments in West LA, Though VA Is Years Behind On Its Promises

A room with large windows and a bed and bench. It looks clean and modern.
The inside of a bedroom at new housing for unhoused veterans at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus, during a tour on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
(Nick Gerda
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New apartments for unhoused veterans are beginning to open in West L.A. at a sprawling campus owned by the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. Local and federal leaders, including L.A. Mayor Karen Bass and VA Secretary Denis McDonough, attended a ribbon cutting for 120 new units on Tuesday.

About 4,000 veterans are unhoused in L.A. County.

Years behind schedule

VA officials are running about four years behind on promises to create 1,200 homes for veterans at the campus. Those promises were made in 2015 to settle an ACLU lawsuit alleging the VA was illegally renting the land for private purposes like TV set storage, a hotel laundry facility and a parking service.

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‘Completely unsatisfied’

The VA handles health care across the U.S. for veterans, as well as efforts to end veteran homelessness. It is now led by McDonough, who was a former chief of staff for President Barack Obama. At Tuesday’s event, LAist asked McDonough about the construction delays. He responded that he’s “completely unsatisfied” with the progress.

“Until we’ve fully housed every veteran, we will be unsatisfied and we'll keep working this,” he said.

A man looks towards a woman who's speaking to him outside a building at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus.
U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough at an event for new housing for veterans at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
(Nick Gerda

Pets are allowed

The VA says the new units “are fully furnished, pet-friendly and ‘move-in’ ready." They include amenities such as outdoor community areas, indoor community spaces, central laundry facilities, onsite management offices, a leasing office, and case workers’ offices.”

How to apply

VA officials say veterans should first call the department’s L.A. temporary housing hotline at 310-268-3350.

For the 120 new units, veterans have to be eligible for a program known as HUD-VASH and be registered in the Los Angeles Coordinated Entry System — a database that connects unhoused people with housing.

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A need to ‘scale’ up

Hitting one of her common themes since declaring a state of emergency on homelessness her first day in office, Bass said it’s crucial to scale up efforts to house veterans.

“One of the most important things for us to do, is to address the problem at the level of scale in which the problem is,” she said in her speech at the ribbon cutting.

L.A. Mayor Karen Bass speaks with another person while walking outside a building at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus.
L.A. Mayor Karen Bass (center) speaks with a colleague after touring new housing for veterans at the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus on Tuesday, May 2, 2023.
(Nick Gerda / LAist)

The backstory

The massive West LA campus was gifted to the VA in the 1800s to house former soldiers, and currently houses a large medical center for veterans.

But controversy has surrounded the 400-acre campus being used for non-veteran purposes. In 2013 a judge found the VA was improperly renting part of the land to a Marriott hotel laundry service. And in 2018, a VA employee pleaded guilty to taking bribes from a private parking lot company that was leasing land at the campus.

For more on the campus’ recent history with homelessness, you can check out KCRW’s recent podcast City of Tents: Veterans Row.

New lawsuit is ongoing

A new lawsuit was filed last year by veterans and the public interest law firm Public Counsel, seeking to force the VA to stick to its promised timeframes for the 1,200 housing units.

“The handful of units opening today are far fewer than the VA has promised, and they’re years late to come online,” said Mark Rosenbaum, who is also representing veterans in the new suit, in a statement. McDonough declined to comment on the case on Tuesday.

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