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Groups try to aid homeless veterans

November 11, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
More than 130,000 vets are homeless, according to an estimate from the Veteran's Administration, and California has the highest number with 20,000 in Los Angeles alone.They may not have homes, but they still possess patriotism.

"Things got tough, times got tough, lost my job reverted to alcoholism," said Gulf War veteran Troy Martin.

"We have 200 guys in a year-long intensive training program and 50 out of the 200 are veterans which is very, very sad," said Rev. Andy Bales of Union Rescue Mission.

In an effort to honor those who served their country, volunteers from the Daily Grill served lunch to the homeless on Wednesday. Many are Vietnam vets who endured combat and then had to endure an ugly homecoming.

"It wasn't very good. They called us baby killers and everything else," said Vietnam veteran Eric Thiemann.

However, veterans believe services have improved dramatically, and now the VA promises $3.2 billion for homeless veterans.

In West Los Angeles, one group sees an opportunity in the 16-acre Veterans Park near the VA Hospital.

"We need more things than a park. We have homeless veterans. Turn this into a tent city in the meantime. And by the way, the cemetery is full. Let's turn this into a cemetery as well," said Robert Rosebrock, director of the Veterans Revolution.

However, the land is operated by the Veteran Park Conservancy, which is a public-private partnership.

They raised funds for fences to replace the chain link and a chapel. Their vision is to create a recuperative environment.

"There is a recreation area, holistic area, all things that help veterans return to society," said Gary Maier, board member of the Veteran Park Conservancy.

The groups have conflicting visions but similar goals. As federal funding is funneled to projects across the nation, there is hope from all quarters that they will take more vets off the streets and into homes.


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