By Debbie Gregory.
California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer and Representative Ted Lieu of Torrance proposed a bill that aims to facilitate housing for veterans at the West Los Angeles Campus. This is an effort to remove veterans from the county’s alleyways and sidewalk shantytowns and onto the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ West Los Angeles campus.
Speaking recently at a VA building that was refurbished for homeless housing, Feinstein said the Los Angeles Homeless Veterans Leasing Act of 2015 will remove a legal barrier to opening the sprawling campus to temporary and permanent housing, recreational facilities and job training for homeless veterans.
“For a long time it’s been our dream to see this campus as housing for homeless veterans,” said Feinstein, who promised to put the bill forward on Tuesday. “I strongly believe with this bill we will finally turn the corner.”
With the VA facing a nationwide backlog for new construction – and a funding shortfall of billions of dollars – this bill allows the agency to create new housing in West LA much faster than the agency could on its own. The bill authorizes public-private partnerships to develop housing and services that “principally benefit veterans and their families” through “enhanced-use leases.”
The VA will be able to lease parcels of land to nonprofits to build and run housing. To repay their loans, the nonprofits would take housing vouchers from the federal government and try to get grants from state, county, and city governments. They can also raise money through private donations.
Veterans advocates said the VA and Congress should build housing themselves, instead of cutting developers in on lucrative building contracts.
There have been several setbacks in the VA’s drive to end Los Angeles’ designation as the nation’s homeless-veteran capital. Mayor Eric Garcetti backed off his pledge to get every homeless veteran off city streets by the end of the year.
Vince Kane, special assistant to Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said the agency had revamped leadership and picked up the pace of engaging and housing homeless veterans. He said the VA remains committed to meeting the year-end goal.