The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced on Friday it will find housing for 650 veterans, the first details of a plan to expand services at the agency's West Los Angeles campus.
The agency said it will start hosting town hall meetings in L.A. for service providers and government agencies and identify legislation needed to revamp the West L.A. campus - as well as find housing for 650 vets - all within the next 100 days.
“This plan demonstrates what can be accomplished for our Nation’s veterans when we come together as a community – everyone working together toward the higher goal,” U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald said in a statement. “This is an important first step toward ending Veteran homelessness in Greater L.A. and a model of what we will do across the country.”
The plan is the first step by the V.A. after settling a lawsuit accusing the agency of mismanaging federal land. Officials are pledging to provide housing and services on the campus itself and expand veterans' access to housing and resources in other parts of Los Angeles.
"There's a sense of urgency and concrete steps that will be put in place over the next few months," said Gary Blasi, special counsel at Public Counsel’s Opportunity Under Law initiative and one of the attorneys on the case. "It's just not business as usual anymore."
The 388-acre West L.A. property, which Blasi said was most recently valued at $5 billion, was donated to the V.A. in the 1800s with the understanding it be used to serve veterans. Currently, some temporary housing does exist on the campus, but it's unclear how much and what of it is being utilized, Blasi said.
A team from the V.A. is expected to travel to L.A. Tuesday to figure out which resources already exist on the campus.
Blasi said the campus has been woefully underutilized as a space for veterans.
Areas of the property have been leased out to private companies and hosted everything from parking lots to baseball facilities. That was the basis of the suit, filed in 2011, by a group of homeless veterans and the ACLU.
Overhauling the West L.A. campus comes at a time of renewed focus on veterans who have fallen through the cracks. President Barack Obama has set a goal of finding housing for all homeless veterans by the end of 2015. V.A. officials have vowed to meet that goal.
There are currently about 4,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles.