LA has the most homeless vets in the country: here’s what advocates want for them

A homeless encampment in Los Angeles.
A homeless encampment in Los Angeles. Photo credit Getty Images

The city of Los Angeles currently has the largest number of homeless United States veterans in the country, and several groups are working to help those who have served our nation.

According to the city, nearly 4,000 homeless veterans are residing in Los Angeles, bedding down in homeless shelters, in old cars and RVs, on sidewalks or under freeway underpasses.

At the same time, the city has a 387-acre facility meant to help veterans in need.

And the Department of Veterans Affairs has been criticized for its handling of the property.

The VA has leased parts of the campus to UCLA for a baseball stadium, and to a private Brentwood school, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

But now, advocates are stepping up and calling for veteran housing to be built on the campus.

In 2015, veterans groups sued the VA to push the issue further, and the department settled by allowing units to be built on the campus. But now they are suing again, and the case may go to trial next year, according to KCRW.

Initially, the campus was used as a home for veterans when it was donated in 1887 for veterans of the Civil War.

Steve Peck, a Vietnam vet who leads the group US Vets, is taking it into his own hands, helping build housing units for vets on the campus. While work isn’t done yet on the more than 500 units, Peck shared with NPR they’re “getting there.”

The building will be exclusively for vets over age 62, and more than half of them currently have severe mental illnesses.

Still, the need for the studio and one-bedroom apartments couldn’t be more apparent, as Peck said they filled those in less than four months.

“It’s a nice home. They’re proud to call it home,” he said. “A lot of the veterans who came in here after they were here for two weeks went to the social workers and said, ‘How long do I get to stay here?’ And she said this is your home. Stay here as long as you want.”

Currently, 233 units are housing veterans, while an additional 347 are under construction. Part of the reason for the lengthy construction process is the 100-year-old infrastructure that Peck says has needed updating.

The VA has shared that the “master plan” is to make the campus feel like a community, as they want to build a café, restaurant, and possibly an art center.

In total, developers are hoping to have more than 1,200 units that offer vets affordable housing while residing safe and warm in one of the most expensive places to live in the country.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Getty Images