On January 28. 2016, federal officials released a blueprint for transforming the long-neglected West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus into a residential community with hundreds of housing units for homeless veterans, offering some potential relief as Los Angeles struggles to deal with an increase in homelessness across the city.
The plan calls for construction of 1,200 permanent supportive housing units for disabled and traumatized veterans and more than 700 short-term units for homeless veterans in the midst of some of the city’s toniest neighborhoods. Some permanent housing could open as soon as next year, officials said, perhaps by adapting some of the 388-acre property’s historic buildings.
The proposed new community would mark one of the most significant efforts to create new housing for the region’s rising homeless population, which is estimated to exceed 44,000 in Los Angeles County.
The proposal includes a village for women, many of whom suffered sexual trauma in the military, gardens where veterans can relax and grow their own food, theaters, sports fields and gym facilities.
Hammered out in months of meetings with veterans and community members, the project is also designed to serve as a beacon for non-homeless veterans, who can use the campus for recreation, cultural events and job development, as well as medical care, officials said.
“There’s amphitheaters, recreation facilities, everything for the physical health, the mental health and the spiritual health of veterans,” said U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “It’s a true reflection of the power of the community coming together to do what’s right for veterans,” he continued.
“They are going to try to make a community out of it,” said Steve Peck, president of U.S. Vets, a homeless veteran service group.
The complete build out of the project will take about 10 years, but officials said some of the existing buildings can be converted to permanent homes in about a year.
Jaded by the years of neglect, some veterans said the VA would bow to pressure from the land’s well-heeled and well-connected neighbors and drop much of the plan.
“The bottom line is Brentwood doesn’t want a bunch of one-eyed, one-legged veterans in raggedy clothes to bring down their property values,” said Dave Culmer, a former Marine and longtime veteran advocate.