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Housing Homeless Vets Tops the VA's Long To-do List

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, is in Los Angeles this week. He's here, in large part, to talk about homeless vets.

It's a problem in cities across the country and one that, in L.A., Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to end.

As of December last year, there were about 2,500 homeless vets in L.A. County — that's about 5 percent of the total homeless population in the county.

Take Two's A Martinez spoke to Secretary McDonald Thursday to hear his plans to end veteran homelessness. 

What's your role in helping cities get homeless veterans off the streets?

"I think one of the most important things we can do is bring the federal aid, whether it's the HUD-VASH voucher that gives the veteran the rent that they need to be in a shelter, or the wrap-around care that we provide ... It's the wraparound care that really is customized to their needs. It gets them back on their feet."

Are the vouchers worth enough, though? Especially in Los Angeles where it's expensive to live? 

"After my first trip here ... one of the first things we did is we worked with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro. We raised the amount 120 percent for LA, and then yesterday [we] announced ... that we're going to raise it again."

One part of the puzzle to fix veteran homelessness here is to create housing on the VA campus in West Los Angeles. You're going to be there later today with Mayor Eric Garcetti to unveil plans for the area. What is the plan?

"The plan is a very comprehensive master plan to, in a sense, return the campus back to what it was when Carolina Barrie's ancestors gave it to the federal government in the 1880s. [To] return it back to being a community for veterans where they can be proud of that community. Where they can participate in activities, where they can get their medical care, and if they need housing, where they can get [the] permanent supportive housing ... that they may need in order to get back on their feet."

Article from KPCC's "Take Two" by A Martínez and Austin Cross.

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