LOS ANGELES (AP) — The federal government on Thursday released a plan to build nearly 2,000 apartments to house chronically homeless veterans in West Los Angeles to settle a lawsuit that alleged it had ignored their plight.
The Department of Veterans Affairs unveiled the draft of a master plan to build 1,200 permanent and 700 short-term housing units at the site of its sprawling West Los Angeles health and medical campus. If the plan receives federal approval, construction of housing could begin this year.
The VA also plans to expand special services for women veterans and those with specific issues such as brain injuries and mental health and addiction problems.
“The plan is not to convert the campus into a giant homeless village. That would be bad practice and against the desires of most homeless people who would like to live in the real world,” Gary Blasi, one of the attorneys who sued on behalf of disabled vets, told the Los Angeles Times. “The idea is to have the campus help prevent homelessness, to have services to intervene so families don’t fall apart and become homeless.”
Los Angeles County has an estimated 4,000 to 5,000 homeless veterans — the largest population in the nation.
The plan was required under a year-old settlement of the lawsuit, which contended that the VA had violated terms of a 19th century deed to the donated land by ignoring the housing needs of vets. It said the VA improperly cut deals for non-vet uses of the nearly 400-acre property by leasing it over the years for non-vet uses such as a UCLA baseball stadium, a hotel laundry, a private school and a film studio storage lot.
The master plan calls for the University of California, Los Angeles to pay $300,000 a year in rent to keep the Jackie Robinson Stadium on the property.
“Veterans fought to secure our American dream. Now it’s our turn to fight for them,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said. “The VA’s Master Plan for our region’s largest VA campus, which incorporates more than 1,000 comments from L.A. residents and veterans, is the latest step in our continued efforts to ensure that every veteran gets the housing and supportive services they need for a better life.”
Rep. Ted W. Lieu, D-Los Angeles, called the proposed plan an “historic framework.”
Lieu said he has introduced legislation that will grant the VA secretary authority to order construction of permanent housing at the West Los Angeles property.
“The 1888 deed calls for this land to be permanently maintained as an old soldiers’ home,” he said. “Without this authority, there can be no home.”
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has introduced counterpart legislation in that house.
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