By: Brian Tang
After touring the homeless encampment outside the gated grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs (VA) campus in October, VA Secretary Denis McDonough noticed that the fairly large encampment consisted of mostly veterans. He subsequently traveled back to Washington and vowed to provide all of these homeless veterans housing in addition to 500 other homeless veterans by the end of 2021.
The VA says it was able to house 667 veterans in or near the Los Angeles area between October 1st and the end of December. Of these veterans, 542 of them were from Los Angeles and the rest were from other Southern and Central California counties. Of the housed veterans from Los Angeles, about half made it into permanent supportive housing; the other half currently reside in transitional or temporary housing or in the mental health residential rehabilitation facility at the West LA VA campus. There are also some homeless veterans who have transferred from the sidewalk encampment to living in tents or small houses in a sanctioned campsite on the VA grounds where food, toilets, and other services are now being provided to them. Some are also temporarily living in motels that have been subsidized by the VA.
In the end, the VA is a large organization that still contains a great deal of resources: for example, they have specially earmarked vouchers for rent for poor and homeless veterans and the necessary funding for personnel to assist homeless people through the paperwork. However, the organization lacks the personnel itself to help a sufficient amount of homeless veterans. Even with vouchers, it can be difficult for veterans to find affordable apartments since some landlords are reluctant to allow homeless people to rent. There are also a number of reserved units for veterans throughout the county for veterans who qualify, but veterans don’t know that these empty apartment units exist for the most part. Overall, the VA has made significant efforts towards the homelessness crisis for veterans, but it should still continue its efforts towards providing permanent housing for homeless veterans instead of only temporary housing.