Officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs on Feb. 1 released building plans for a proposed addition to its West Los Angeles housing community for disabled and homeless veterans, reported the Los Angeles Times. The blueprint calls for almost 2,000 supplementary apartments and support rooms. The new addition would also include a cafe, cinema, gym and library. VA officials say the first stage of the project could open as early as next year. The proposed veterans colony is part of the city's larger effort to fight homelessness. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, more than 40,000 homeless live in Los Angeles County, 4,000 of which are military veterans.
Housing the homeless
The city in September announced plans to combat its homelessness problem, reported The New York Times. The plan set aside $2 billion to address the issue over the next decade.
"This is the highest priority that we have, to make sure that nobody is living on the streets and nobody is without a home," Mayor Eric Garcetti said in a press conference soon after the Los Angeles City Council approved the initiative.
However, the city will not have to dip into these funds to build out its VA campus. The Senate in January authorized the agency to grant Los Angeles $35 million in federal funds for the project, reported Southern California Public Radio. The House of Representatives must still approve the funding.
Putting an end to the war
The American Civil Liberties Union in 2011 sued the VA on behalf of the Vietnam Veterans of America who accused the government agency of mismanaging its vast campus, reported the Los Angeles Times. Last January, the federal government settled the suit out of court and promised to develop a blueprint for additional on-campus housing. These latest plans are a product of that settlement.
"This is the first tangible proof that veteran homelessness is on its way to becoming an oxymoron in Los Angeles," attorney Mark Rosenbaum, one of the lawyers who represented the Vietnam Veterans of America in its case against the VA, said in an interview with the newspaper.
Working out the details
Much of the project involves restoring a number of historic buildings that dot the VA's 388-acre West Los Angeles campus.
"The campus has a number of beautiful old buildings, that are outdated and underutilized," Milo Peinemann, senior director at New Directions for Veterans, a nonprofit that helps build housing for homeless ex-military personnel, told Southern California Public Radio.
The buildings, while beautiful and conveniently located, pose a unique challenge to builders. Most of them require serious structural improvements to meet Los Angeles' rigorous seismic ordinances. And, many still show damage from a 6.7-magnitude earthquake that rocked the San Fernando Valley in 1971. The quake killed 64 people, injured another 2,543 and caused $553 million in damage, reported the Los Angeles Times.
"The next big California earthquake is a question of when, not if," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., who helped authorize the funds for the project, said in a statement. "These projects are also critical to meeting health care and housing needs for veterans throughout California."