WASHINGTON, DC — Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric Shinseki has made a commitment to fund and support an array of services to help homeless veterans in Los Angeles starting next month.
At a meeting this week in U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s Washington office, attended by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica) and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, Shinseki announced he has directed his department to expand housing vouchers for homeless veterans, increase medical outreach workers and have a dedicated homeless center at the West Los Angeles VA facility.
The VA has been under fire from homeless advocates who say the agency has not done enough to treat and house veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and addiction. The ACLU is suing the VA on behalf of homeless veterans who are demanding the VA provide housing and supportive services to the more than 6,000 veterans in L.A. who are homeless on any given night. Housing is critical so that veterans can have a stable environment to continue treatment, the lawsuit states.
“Candidly, this is a disgrace and a chronic problem that we can do something about,” Feinstein said. “The VA made a commitment to increase support services to these veterans, and I intend to hold them to that commitment. Our nation’s veterans need to know they have our unwavering support and that starts with access to the services they need when they return home.”
“Secretary Shinseki showed a sincere desire to turn the crisis of veteran homelessness in Los Angeles around,” Waxman said. “He has committed to ending veteran homelessness by 2015 and it simply cannot be done without a good strategy for the chronically homeless. He is putting real weight into this fight.”
Los Angeles County has the largest populations of homeless veterans in the nation — an estimated 6,291 homeless veterans sleep on the streets every night.
Secretary Shinseki pledged to make more housing available and to strengthen services for homeless veterans by:
• Expanding Project 60, which provides permanent supportive housing to severely mentally ill chronically homeless veterans;
• Increasing HUD-VASH vouchers, which provide housing and therapeutic services to homeless veterans;
• Securing temporary use of vacant beds in the State Veterans Home at the West LA VA to house homeless veterans, until full state funding becomes available for veterans who are on the waiting list for nursing home care;
• Developing a Comprehensive Homeless Center at the West LA VA to serve as a “one-stop shop” for homeless veterans to obtain services;
• Expanding Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) Teams, to identify and engage homeless veterans on the street to bring them into permanent supportive housing and to assist the veteran to remain housed;
• Renovating Buildings 205 and 208, which have been designated to house homeless veterans and provide therapeutic services, through public-private partnerships.