June 8, 2011; Source: Los Angeles Times | While homeless veterans in Los Angeles wander the streets and sleep on sidewalks, a 387- acre piece of property intended to serve them is being occupied by Enterprise Rent-A-Car, SoDexho Marriott charter bus company, the UCLA baseball team, and Brentwood School. The ACLU is investigating why.
Los Angeles has the largest number of homeless veterans in the nation, with experts believing it is reaching crisis proportions. Most of those 2,800 homeless veterans are chronically homeless.
The ACLU contends that this property was targeted to provide veterans with housing and treatment services, but instead, the VA has joined in “enhanced sharing agreements” with companies. “Nobody knows how the deals were negotiated or where the money has gone,” said Mark Rosenblum, legal director of the L.A. ACLU.
A lawsuit has been filed against the VA alleging it has misused large portions of this campus and failed to provide adequate housing and treatment for it clients. Legislators, VA officials, and the White House will be called upon to start a congressional investigation on these agreements.
The VA contends that these lease agreements with private companies have raised money for veterans programs. In 2009, the VA launched a five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans, which included services for low-income veterans and their families, and expanded education, employment, housing and health services.
There have been some steps to improve the plight of L.A. homeless vets. Last year, the VA committed $20 million to convert a campus building into therapeutic housing, but it is not completed. There are still “acres and acres” of property that can be used for supportive housing, local leaders declare. They hope that this action will highlight both the significant community need and opportunity to help those who served our country.—Nancy Knoche