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City Hall Pols Dragging Their Feet on LA’s Homeless Vets … Neighborhood Councils Stepping Up

MY TURN--There have been articles, editorials and TV and radio talking heads concerning the disastrous homeless Veterans’ situation in Los Angeles.  A little over a year ago Mayor Garcetti proclaimed that by the end of 2015 this blight would be resolved.  A month ago he tempered that by saying it will probably take until 2017. 

I have an inkling as to why it is going to take that long. They have not really started doing anything about it.   A City Council Homeless Committee chaired by Jose Huizar and co-chaired by Mike Bonin was established.  Maybe I looked in the wrong place, but I couldn't find any minutes of meetings or Council files on any of the LAcity.org web sites for this Committee. I cannot tell if there is a sub, sub-committee on the Veterans Homeless situation, which is an entirely different project. 

I have been highly critical of the Neighborhood Council (NC) activities this year.  But the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) decided they could not wait for the "elected's" to initiate any helpful programs, so they have marshaled forces from individual Neighborhood Councils including  the Downtown(DLANC) and the West LA NC (WLANC), not for profit organizations and a small group of highly motivated citizens who are launching their own "D DAY" event this coming Thursday September 24 at the Veterans West Los Angeles Campus.  You know... the one that houses the UCLA athletic programs, the two theaters and other non-related commercial enterprises. 

According to Terrence Gomes, LANCC President, The idea was initiated the first part of the year when LANCC, which represents many of the ninety-six Neighborhood Councils, passed a resolution which was sent to the Mayor and the City Council. 

It read:

"The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition requests that the Mayor and City Council declare a state of emergency on homelessness in the City of Los Angeles and open a Council File to examine and develop a viable five year plan to systematically reduce homelessness in the City of Los Angeles. 

"The current City resources available to meet the demands to reduce the homeless population do not exist and need the participation of the County, State, and Federal governments. The amount of people living on the street has increased 12% over the last two years and a veterans commission report states that almost 50% of the homeless veterans in Los Angeles will still be on the streets after the Mayor's deadline of December 31, 2015. " 

The response from City Hall can best be described as underwhelming!  Los Angeles has the largest homeless population of Veterans and the largest Veterans Property in America.  We also have a NIMBY situation since it fronts on a more affluent area of West Los Angeles and so some of the neighbors are not anxious to have the entire acreage utilized for veterans.  The current tenants are also very happy with their rental spaces. 

LANCC put out a media release saying, We will no longer wait for City Hall. On Thursday, September 24, 2015, LANCC will be helping to sponsor a “D-Day for homeless Veterans on Skid Row”, from 12:00 PM to 4:00PM starting at Gladys Park in Downtown L.A. (808 E 6th St. Los Angeles, CA 90021) and continuing at the West Los Angeles Veterans campus. " 

It has obtained various sponsors to pay for busses to transport homeless Veterans to the Veterans Administration Westwood Campus in order to obtain ID cards. Sponsors will also be paying for meals, clothing, as well as assisting in obtaining any of their deserved Veterans benefits.   Donations of hygiene bags, shaving equipment and shower facilities have also been arranged. 

LANCC through its NC network has reached out to City, County and Federal representatives who have been less than enthusiastic about this grass roots effort and whose help has been minimal so far.  Possibly, they might be embarrassed that this group of volunteers can accomplish something that the paid politicians with their large staffs haven't been able to put together. 

There are approximately 300 community-based veteran organizations across the country that have demonstrated impressive success serving homeless veterans. These groups are most successful when they work in collaboration with federal, state and local government agencies, other homeless providers and veteran service organizations. 

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When Mayor Garcetti made his original pledge last year to Secretary for Veterans Affairs Mc Donald, other Southern California Cities signed on as well.  Both Riverside and Long Beach have made substantial inroads.  Of course they are dealing with a smaller population but they don't have the same financial resources either. 

Long Beach's Villages at Cabrillo has 329 beds available for homeless veterans at its 26 acre former military base. The project will serve 1000 homeless; partnering with eight agencies to provide the following programs: 

●Veteran substance abuse treatment

●Female veteran recovery and employment  

●Senior and disabled veterans program -

●Family shelter

●Family treatment

●Native American Indian program

●Employment training programs  

●Veteran residential employment  

●Full diagnosis program

●Veterans employment center  

●Family transitional housing

●Youth transitional housing

●Child care center  

●An educational center for homeless children

●The recovery programs are operated by the VA Medical Center. 

See USVets Long Beach for more information  

Programs that work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at improving themselves. The most successful programs include individualized case management support, employment training and job placement services. 

Washington State and Salt Lake City have also been profiled as having successful homeless veterans programs.  LA doesn't have to re-create the wheel.  There is so much information and enough success stories to at least try some of the programs. 

It is also a dollar and sense issue.  The Weingart Group, a not for profit in downtown Los Angeles, pointed out that donations are great but investments are better.  It takes approximately $30,000 to look after someone who is homeless and only a $10,000 investment to get that same person into a structured program with individual attention. 

Kudos to Terence Gomes and his group of volunteers.  I have also volunteered to help and it will be interesting to see how many of our City officials show up especially for photo ops.  

As always comments welcome.

 

(Denyse Selesnick is a CityWatch columnist.  She is a former publisher/journalist/international event organizer. Denyse can be reached at: [email protected])

-cw

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 13 Issue 77

Pub: Sep 22, 2015