Sen. Dianne Feinstein today introduced legislation that would authorize the Department of Veterans Affairs to lease out two buildings on its West Los Angeles campus as housing for homeless veterans.
“More than 6,000 veterans are homeless in Los Angeles,” Feinstein said. “This is a disgrace and should be a national shame. We can't afford to wait any longer to increase the housing supply at West L.A. VA.”
The project targets “the most vulnerable, chronically homeless veterans,” said Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who has worked with Feinstein and Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, on the issue.
“We've been trying to get the VA to do this for a long time,” Yaroslavsky said.
The two structures, designated as building 205 and 208, are vacant and in need of renovation. A ceremonial groundbreaking for a third property, building 209, took place Jan. 25. All three buildings surround a parking lot at the far northern end of the campus, between Barrington Avenue and the San Diego (405) Freeway.
Veterans Affairs agreed in 2007 to renovate the properties for homeless vets, but Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki recently told Feinstein he needed congressional authorization to move forward.
The legislation would allow the department to partner with a private developer to do the construction work. The VA would provide treatment for the issues that landed the vets on the street, including mental health, substance abuse and medical problems.
“They are designed to get these chronically homeless veterans back on their feet,” Yaroslavsky said.
Once the vets are able to live independently, they would move into permanent supportive housing that provides less intensive treatment.
Feinstein said Waxman, who recently announced his intention to retire, intends to introduce a similar bill in the House of Representatives soon.
--City News Service