ABC7 Salutes: West Los Angeles VA building to become homeless housing for veterans

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Saturday, February 23, 2019
ABC7 Salutes: West LA VA building to house homeless vets
An organization is planning a full-scale neighborhood for homeless veterans on the 330-acre West Los Angeles VA campus, with 1,200 units made up of renovated buildings and new construction.

WEST LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Michael Stewart, 61, served in the Navy working on submarines for nearly 10 years. But since he left the service in 1987, he's had a difficult time maintaining a job and has ended up homeless.

"A homeless person has no stability. Today, well, I might be around the corner from a job, but if there's no purpose in going around that corner, I'll never know the job is there," Stewart said.

Thanks to U.S. VETS, Stewart has a temporary roof over his head and the supportive services available to find that job. But thousands of L.A. County's homeless population are veterans, just like Stewart, with no place to go.

"There are a lot of veterans even with housing vouchers who can't find housing so the housing crisis in L.A. is very acute, the rents are really high," said Steve Peck, president and CEO of U.S. VETS.

That's where the West L.A. Veterans Collective comes in, made up of U.S. VETS, Thomas Safran & Associates and Century Housing. They're planning a full-scale neighborhood for homeless vets on the 330-acre West L.A. VA campus. There's been a commitment of 1,200 units made up of renovated buildings and new construction.

"It's been so sad to me to see it not be developed and not be occupied. This building I understand hasn't been occupied for five years," said Tom Safran, chair of Safran & Associates.

In addition to housing, this renovated section of the VA will include supportive services to help veterans find a job, assist those with mental health issues and provide a place for veterans to build a community.

"Mostly, it's for those veterans who can't create a real social network out in the community. This will be a real close knit community by the time we finish," Peck said.

The first renovated housing is scheduled to open in two years with funding coming from the city, county and the federal government.