WESTWOOD — A building on the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus will be converted into a therapeutic-housing facility for chronically homeless veterans, thanks to $20 million in federal funds, local officials announced Monday.
“Veterans have provided a great service to our nation, and it is our responsibility to support them in return,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California). “The therapeutic housing project at the West Los Angeles VA facility offers the promise of refuge and resources for chronically homeless veterans in the region, yet it is has been a long, drawn-out process to see it brought to fruition.”
Feinstein said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki agreed June 16 to provide the funding. He made the announcement during a meeting with Feinstein, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky and Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Santa Monica).
“We so appreciate Secretary Shinseki’s commitment to house our homeless veterans who have already sacrificed so much for our nation,” Yaroslavsky said. “This project marks a milestone in addressing this issue.”
The funding will be used to transform Building 209 on the West Los Angeles campus into a facility for homeless veterans, providing medical care, mental-health treatment and special-needs services. It is expected to be completed by 2012.
Santa Monica Mayor Bobby Shriver, an advocate for housing at the VA for homeless vets and one of the first calling for the renovation of three empty buildings there, applauded the announcement but said it’s only a first step.
“We finally have some money, but we’re going to need to do a lot more stuff before the first vet is living in the building and receiving treatment,” he said.
A service provider for the facility has yet to be selected, and two other buildings on the VA campus that have been designated for homelessness services haven’t yet received funding to cover refurbishing costs.
Shriver and others grew frustrated as the VA engaged in a long, drawn-out process of securing funding to convert the buildings, coupled with what seemed to be little enthusiasm for the idea. He continued to put pressure on local and federal officials to find funding.
Shinseki agreed to work with Feinstein and Waxman to identify funds to renovate the two other buildings on the campus for veteran housing, according to Feinstein’s office, which reported that Los Angeles County has about 6,540 homeless veterans, one of the largest populations of its kind in the nation.
It is estimated that 70 to 90 chronically homeless veterans could eventually be housed in each of the buildings.