LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- For 59 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County, a new facility will offer them a comfortable place to stay as they try to get back on their feet.
As part of a multistep plan to fix the city's homeless problem, the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus has been transformed into a community for now formerly, mostly older, homeless veterans.
"The words 'homelessness' and 'veteran' should never go next to each other in a sentence and yet, far too many languish on our streets," said Los Angeles City Councilwoman Traci Park at the campus' unveiling Tuesday.
Steve Peck, the president of the nonprofit U.S. Vets, which helped build the facility, also said the new facility will change how L.A. supports its homeless population.
"This will fundamentally change the service systems for veterans in Los Angeles. If we do this right, we have the opportunity to end homelessness in Los Angeles. Between the housing and supportive services and the prevention services," said Peck.
The facility is being housed in an 80--year-old building remodeled to house 59 senior veterans above the age of 62. The building's first resident lived on San Vicente in Brentwood right outside the VA and then temporarily in the tiny home village on the VA's campus.
"Any of the folks who are there have stayed there waiting for these facilities to open because they want to be near the medical center and the healthcare options they have," said Dr. Steven Braverman, the medical center director of the VA of Greater Los Angeles. "What we learned is in order to help them move into another area, we had to do that as a group because of the camaraderie formed among those folks and that's what makes these housing units so valuable is that they can be together,"
Construction is taking place all over the campus of the West LA VA, transforming old buildings and constructing new facilities into a supportive housing community for 3,000 veterans and their families.
"When I came back from desert storm, I had issues. So we separated, me and my wife, and I should have gotten help then to overcome it, but I thought I could do it myself. But I couldn't," said Maurice Valerio, a 63-year-old formerly homeless veteran.
Valerio served in the army from 1977 until 2002, but ended up homeless. Now, he has his own apartment and is working every day to turn his life around.
"Once I stepped in, at first, I thought it was going to be a small place. I looked at it and said 'Wow, it's better than I thought.' I can't call my car home, but this is home right here. It's permanent and I just want to thank all the case workers who helped me out," said Valerio.