Los Angeles Is (Almost) Halfway to Ending Homelessness for Veterans

In January the Department of Veterans of affairs settled a lawsuit brought on behalf of ten homeless veterans in Los Angeles. The suit, filed by the ACLU, alleged misuse of the 387-acres that houses the VA West Los Angeles Medical Center. The settlement ends not just the three year old case, but continues the journey of ending homelessness among Los Angeles veterans. It’s a hard won battle that began more than a century ago, during the post-Civil War years.

Arcadia Bandini-Stearns deBaker was born in Los Angeles to Don Juan Bandini, a wealthy Mexican ranchero and Dolores Estudio from San Diego. Arcadia, who never spoke a word of English, was one of the first Los Angeles socialites and was known for her beauty, wealth and business acumen. In 1888, she and her second husband, Col. Robert Symington Baker, a transplant from Rhode Island who became a wealthy landowner and co-founder of the city of Santa Monica, deeded several hundred acres of land to the U.S. Government. The deed specifically required that the land be established as a National Home for Disabled Veterans. That land is the nearly 400 acres that makes up part of the largest healthcare system within the Department of Veterans Affairs.

For almost 80 years, the land did house soldiers. However, over the decades, the area became prime real estate located in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in on the west side of Los Angeles. This made it a target for developers and intense political wrangling, not to mention shady deals. The VA never followed through on the deeded use much past the medical facility and cemetery. More than 120 years later, instead of housing for veterans, the land has been leased for a baseball stadium, storage space for a television studio, a hotel laundry service, as well as tennis and basketball courts for a local private school. Many of these leases were priced at below market value. At the time of the lawsuit, plans were being drawn up to build an amphitheater.

All of this was happening while Los Angeles had the largest population of homeless veterans in the country, some of whom can be found sleeping under an overpass just steps away from the front entrance.

Even before a federal judge halted the leases and stopped construction on the amphitheater, Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to end veterans’ homelessness in the city by the end of 2015. The Los Angeles City council had already made it easier for homeless vets to get priority for subsidized housing, but that wasn’t enough for the nearly 7,000 estimated homeless veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles. The Mayor partnered with the Home for Good initiative, which is a “public and private partnership with over 100 members, led by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.” By the time the ACLU settlement was announced, more than 3,300 veterans had found supportive housing in 2014, which included a number of veterans who were ineligible for VA housing. This put the Mayor nearly halfway to his goal.

This week, the Mayor’s office announced the opening of the first ever Women Veteran Housing program. Located in the San Pedro community which also houses the port of Los Angeles, the Blue Butterfly Village is a converted unused Naval housing area containing 76 two-bedroom, rent-subsidized single family homes. Several of the soldiers will be transitioning from shelters. In addition to housing, the community provides supportive services for the women, many of whom have suffered sexual abuse during their service, as well as help to become self-sufficient while juggling the responsibilities of motherhood.

That last Los Angeles homeless counted estimated more than 4,000 homeless veterans, many of whom are disabled and suffer from mental illness. The settlement announced in January includes building transitional and permanent housing, with initial plans to be drawn up by October. They are also required to provide housing for women and seniors. According the VA, there will be enough dormitories and beds to house every homeless veteran in the city.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

84 comments

Sue H
Sue H2 months ago

Good on LA!

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Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y4 months ago

thanks

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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John J
John J4 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Converted unused housing areas, with additional help from nearby communities ... that's the way you give and/or grab hold of a hands-up, not a hand-out (which keeps you stuck in place rather than advancing through opportunity).

Also recently read about an outstanding private citizen. knowledgable in construction and tired of observing the hardships of the homeless, who began interacting on-site rather than driving through their forgotten areas, hearing the stories of what brought them to this lifestyle, and through talking and listening to their call for the simplest basics needed to survive, began erecting "little houses" on wheels, securing the doors with locks, gathering construction materials from everyday trash deemed useless by those lucky enough to afford upgrades. Once the first house was introduced into the area, given free of charge, people became interested and amazed that someone cared. Upon training as to what was useful and what was not, hey began collecting their own useful construction materials, bringing them to a prearranged collection area, and helped as best they could in whatever way they could.

Why can't we take this idea to heart, expand through our combined gifts a return to dignity and worthiness that all deserve? Accomplish alone, probably not. Together, it's possible. Today THEY need help, tomorrow YOU may ... think about it.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

thanks for sharing

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Stephen G.
Stephen G3 years ago

thanks for sharing

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