Proposal Aims To House Hundreds Of Vets At Underused V.A. Campus
There's now a plan to return the underutilized West L.A. Veterans Affairs campus to its intended purpose: homes for veterans that need them. The 338-acre West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus could be transformed into 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans who are disabled or traumatized, plus over 700 short-term units for homeless veterans, according to the L.A. Times.
The V.A. agreed to better use the campus to serve veterans last January to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of homeless and disabled veterans in 2011. The suit accused the V.A. of leasing space on the campus to private companies, or letting buildings remain vacant instead of providing care for actual veterans.
The V.A.'s proposal was announced this morning, and calls for 490 units to be completed in the first two and a half years, then 900 more units if the need is there. There would also be community amenities that vets could use, including a gym and coffee shop. Other veterans would also be able to come to the campus for recreational, educational or healthcare purposes. Some of the initial housing could be finished next year.
According to Gary Blasi, a lawyer who represented the vets in the suit, the campus wouldn't just become a "giant homeless village." Rather, "the idea is to have the campus help prevent homelessness, to have services to intervene so families don't fall apart and become homeless," he said.
The land that the campus sits on was donated to the V.A. in the 1800s with the instructions that it should be used to provide homes for veterans. However, the V.A. stopped admitting new veterans in the '60 and the property fell into disrepair. As of last year, there were only 800 veterans on the property, all in temporary beds and none in permanent housing. The property did end up containing a laundry facility for hotels, a rental car agency and a baseball field for UCLA.
Controversially, UCLA and Brentwood School may be allowed to keep their athletic facilities on the property, as officials are negotiating with the schools to also provide services that would help veterans as well. UCLA, for instance, will develop legal and family service centers, according to this proposal.
Volunteers are currently conducting a thorough count of Los Angeles' homeless, creating a particularly detailed profile of homeless veterans, using funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Los Angeles region had over 4,000 homeless veterans—the highest number in the country—as of the count last January, according to the Times.
In order for this to all come to fruition, federal legislation will have to be approved first and nonprofit developers will have to sign on to the plan. Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Los Angeles said that he intends to introduce the legislation that would give the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs the authority to carry out the plan, according to City News Service.