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LA vets demand housing at giant VA campus
October 22, 2011 11:52 AM   Subscribe

There are an increasing number of homeless military vets living in Los Angeles. The VA in Los Angeles has a 400 acre parcel of land meant to house vets. Slight problem: the VA has decided to lease the property to various area businesses instead of using the land for its intended purpose.
posted by reenum (36 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
In fact, according to Rosenbaum the Justice Department attorney said, "We don't believe that the VA has any authority or any responsibility to provide housing."

Support the troops... just as long as they're killing people for you. After that, fuck 'em. That always works out real well, doesn't it?
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:17 PM on October 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


When those who desire to "run government like a business" actually run government like a business, shit like this happens. It's amazing how well stuff like this dovetails into the OWS movement.
posted by nevercalm at 12:18 PM on October 22, 2011 [23 favorites]


Support our troops.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 12:19 PM on October 22, 2011


Kovic is calling for an occupation protest of the West LA property, not unlike the current Occupy Wall Street movement.

The #bonusarmy hashtag isn't seeing very much traffic, yet.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:24 PM on October 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


"Running a government like a business" has to be the stupiest mantra of all. Why do people think governments exist, except to do the things businesses do poorly or not at all. Fuck everyone who thinks like that, stupid privileged asswipes.
posted by maxwelton at 12:37 PM on October 22, 2011 [33 favorites]


When those who desire to "run government like a business" actually run government like a business, shit like this happens.

RTA. This has been going on for more than a generation, through at least six presidential administrations -- longer than the existence of the VA as a Cabinet department. Two and a half Democratic administrations didn't see fit to change this practice, because the money into the VA coffers was judged to be more useful to the mission of the VA than the land. Max Cleland presided over this under the Carter administration, and if you want to tell me that Max Cleland cares more about money than veterans, then you and I live in different universes.
posted by Etrigan at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


My understanding is that the existing buildings on the site are unsafe and dilapidated, and the VA can't afford to repair them. The VA doesn't run veterans homes anymore, so there may just not be an office within the bureaucracy that's equipped to rehabilitate and manage the property. (You still see a few veterans homes here and there, but they're not run by the federal VA.)

It does make me wonder if they could donate the land to a Habitat-for-Humanity-like thing where homeless vets put in the effort to repair the existing buildings and set up a nonprofit to manage the place.
posted by miyabo at 12:38 PM on October 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Amazing. So when they come back by January, they won't only be unemployed, but also homeless. USA USA etc.
posted by CarlRossi at 12:45 PM on October 22, 2011


At some point the facility stopped being used for vet housing; something this article lacks is an explanation of why that change occurred.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 12:47 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


So when they come back by January, they won't only be unemployed, but also homeless. USA USA etc.

I'm sure they'll be well taken care of, any time some sports team wants to pump-up their patriotic cred and do a "Salute Our Brave Servicemen" day. Free flags and hot dogs for the troops!*

* Participation in "Salute Our Brave Servicemen" day requires documented proof of service.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:28 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


A million WWI veterans marched on Washington during the Great Depression in order to gain the respect they should have been given. I think we'll see it happen again. Soon. Hopefully, it turns out peaceful this time.
posted by Renoroc at 2:12 PM on October 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Running a government like a business" has to be the stupiest mantra of all. Why do people think governments exist, except to do the things businesses do poorly or not at all. Fuck everyone who thinks like that, stupid privileged asswipes.

There are two things that come to mind with RGLAB, 1. Business has to consider cost in approaching goals, whereas many govt projects have A Way To Do Things, and little if any incentive to consider efficency. 2. Business (in theory) hires and fires based on perceived effectiveness, which happens in neither civil service nor direct appointment positions. I'm aware that these are both generalities which many businesses do not adhere to, but they are reasonable things to want which I think people interpret as RGLAB.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 3:04 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know how to solve the problem: if they're not using the land, take it away from them and build some ugly over-priced condo developments. EFFICIENCY FTW!
posted by bleep at 3:12 PM on October 22, 2011


Ugly, overpriced condos might be an improvement over the really ugly, dilapidated housing complex currently there.

As far as veteran housing goes, vouchers seem like a much better idea. Maintaining a colony of down and out veterans just seems like an idea better left in the past. It seems reasonable to maintain some housing for vets undergoing long term rehab and such. But for actual housing of otherwise functional vets, it seems better to not keep them segregated in a public housing type atmosphere.
posted by 2N2222 at 4:42 PM on October 22, 2011


When you're homeless though sometimes what you really need is a safe place where you can just show up and stay while you get on your feet. I don't see why they can't maintain both housing and vouchers. Encourage people to get on the vouchers sure.
posted by bleep at 4:58 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


So when they come back by January, they won't only be unemployed, but also homeless.
posted by CarlRossi


Its not like they're going to bring everyone home and discharge them. Only a percentage (as small one, I'm guessing) will have served thier term and be ready for discharge if they want to leave the service. Plenty will stay in and most of those who DO get out will not be homeless.
posted by blaneyphoto at 5:06 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Maybe they should provide the housing until they can get the vouchers started for a given vet -- so they have a safe place to crash while the paperwork gets done and they find a real apartment.

One question comes to mind, though: once someone has been a soldier, for how long do we owe him or her housing? I see no problem with doing it for awhile, but an open-ended commitment would be extraordinarily expensive.
posted by Malor at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2011


Support whose troops?
posted by Spatch at 5:08 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


We owe them housing if the work we asked them to do resulted in making them unable to provide housing for themselves. Those vets who haven't had their bodies and minds destroyed and who can find well-paying jobs can obviously afford their own places and would probably rather do so.
posted by bleep at 5:22 PM on October 22, 2011 [6 favorites]


One question comes to mind, though: once someone has been a soldier, for how long do we owe him or her housing?

Depends on how bad we broke him or her. I got out having done my four in peacetime, uninjured and whole. Didn't need so much as a voucher, and good for me. Some people coming home have seen and done things that will leave them broken forever, and that's how long we owe them.
posted by mph at 5:42 PM on October 22, 2011 [30 favorites]


2N2222: As far as veteran housing goes, vouchers seem like a much better idea. Maintaining a colony of down and out veterans just seems like an idea better left in the past. It seems reasonable to maintain some housing for vets undergoing long term rehab and such. But for actual housing of otherwise functional vets, it seems better to not keep them segregated in a public housing type atmosphere.
Based on my experience as a housing advocate working with Section 8 in New York, you can issue the voucher, but it's no good if a private landlord won't take it. Of course it is not legal to discriminate against voucher holders, but in a landlord's market, there are many legal reasons not to accept a tenant who also happens to have a voucher. I don't know the L.A. market at all, but this would be my argument for purpose-built, i.e., project housing.
posted by skbw at 6:23 PM on October 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Housing would be much less of a problem if these folks could find decent employment. There are already hiring practices in place that favor vets and especially disabled vets in the civil service and else where, but there is no current connection between the VA and Civil Service HRs. I'd love to see that happen.

I know MeFi isn't a direct line to Uncle Sam, but if I could make a suggestion it would be that here in San Diego alone, we're going to lose about 30% of our work force in the next couple of years to retirement. The last of our Vietnam era vets are retiring soon. That's thousands of jobs opening up and I'd like to see them go to vets. Vets who already know the system and have payed their dues.
posted by snsranch at 7:06 PM on October 22, 2011


Those vets who haven't had their bodies and minds destroyed and who can find well-paying jobs can obviously afford their own places and would probably rather do so.

Vets are disproportionately numbered among the unemployed because employers consider them unemployable, despite all the highflown rhetoric thrown around about vets being the best possible workers. So "obviously" there are many vets who don't fit into the categories you describe.
posted by blucevalo at 8:31 PM on October 22, 2011


Hopefully, it turns out peaceful this time.


If it doesn't, I'll pit my wits against any Neo-MacArthur's, anytime, day or night, tanks or not. Count me in. I didn't support Iraq or Afghanistan as they were waged, but I will support those of us who fought and died.

When the rubber meets the road, I'd much rather the troops standing between Muslim Bosnians and the Death Brigades be loyal to the President and the American People.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:21 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I didn't mean to imply that it's easy for able vets to find work. I just meant to say that housing and assistance for 100% of veterans ad infinitum isn't necessary (in response to the question of how long should we provide housing) because most people who can provide for themselves will do so, provided they can find work (a big "provided" these days, believe me I know). My opinion is that vets who can't provide for themselves for any reason should be assisted for as long as they need it.
posted by bleep at 9:51 PM on October 22, 2011


GOD LOVES HOMELESS SOLDIERS
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:23 PM on October 22, 2011


One question comes to mind, though: once someone has been a soldier, for how long do we owe him or her housing?

If they got killed soldiering, how long would they be dead?
posted by hattifattener at 11:20 PM on October 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


bleep wrote: My opinion is that vets who can't provide for themselves for any reason should be assisted for as long as they need it.

Of course they should be. We all deserve that much. They (or at least most of them) deserve even more, IMO.
posted by wierdo at 12:00 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I live right down the street from the south side of the VA property in West LA. It's true that a lot of the existing buildings are run down, to the point of being potentially unsafe. How they got that way and why they aren't being fixed up now given the need for housing and other facilities after Iraq and Afghanistan, I can't say.

The article is a little misleading, however. The theater and golf course are both old construction, and the golf course may not even be maintained anymore. The theater is rented out for various community events and productions—I can't say I see the harm in that. The Red Cross leases some space on the campus—again, perhaps not the most objectionable commercial use.

The one distasteful use I've heard of recently is that a parking lot was leased to Enterprise Rent A Car, but I don't think its a lack of parking that's injuring the vets served by the facility.

As to the Brentwood School athletic fields, they are in the uppermost/rear part of the property, previously used as a landfill/dump, and probably the least important in terms of concerns over serving veterans. If the revenue from that deal was being used to renovate existing facilities to better serve veterans, that'd be a fine thing in my view.

As it is, building those athletic fields revealed a latent problem with the use of that part of the property: the presence of radioactive medical waste in that landfill. See local journalist Michael Collin's VA Nuclear Dump page.

Meanwhile, there has been a Fisher House built on the property (although not in the most pleasant or private part of it, which irked me--right by the freeway instead) and what appears to be a spiffy new outpatient medical center (to complement the existing hospital) appears to be under construction.

Here's a g-maps link for people who'd like to scope it out themselves. It really is a remarkable property, given it's size and location between Santa Monica, Brentwood and Westwood.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:00 AM on October 23, 2011 [6 favorites]


...and here's a slant view of where some of the old Spanish mission-style buildings have been recently torn down for new facilities.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:12 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm torn - on the one hand I support helping these guys - on the other Feinstein is arguing for it as well... Fine, I will agree w/Feinstein this time. *shakesfist*
posted by symbioid at 7:24 AM on October 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


snuffleupagus, that looks like architecture contest material to me! Thank you for the detailed analysis.

Given that the land--and possibly even some of the buildings--are there, this seems to me like something that MIGHT be amenable to political action/activism/pressure, even as cynical as I am. At the very least I would want to get a local (non-gov) contractor to drive past the existing buildings and eyeball an estimate.

Do you (snuffy) know of any local/LA affordable housing or vets' organizations that are involved in this?
posted by skbw at 10:42 AM on October 23, 2011


Given how well the VA runs their facilities, I'd think the last thing veterans would want is VA run housing.
posted by happyroach at 11:49 AM on October 23, 2011


Its not like they're going to bring everyone home and discharge them. Only a percentage (as small one, I'm guessing) will have served thier term and be ready for discharge if they want to leave the service. Plenty will stay in and most of those who DO get out will not be homeless.

Oh, well, it's alright then, blaneyphoto. No need to worry, if only some of the vets will be homeless, and not taken care of by a corrupt, incompetent VA. Carry on.
posted by IAmBroom at 4:59 PM on October 23, 2011


I wonder if anybody has a rough estimate as to how many seemingly unemployable homeless mentally ill veterans base themselves within a mile or two of that hospital.
posted by Adventurer at 4:42 AM on October 24, 2011


"Government run like a business" lead directly to BRAC, the Base Realignment And Closure committee. Like this land, the Army buildings at Fort Snelling in Minnesota were also closed down and allowed to fall into disrepair because it cost too much to maintain them.

I can't honestly disagree with the notion of closing down an asset that you can't afford (along the liones of "I lost my job so I am selling my boat"), but I guess they should also have liquidated them at that point.

It would be neat to get vets to rebuild these places as vocational training...but that would only be useful if you wanted to push them into hazmat abatement work (since the construction industry is sucking wind). And that's no way to thank someone who wore our nation's uniform!
posted by wenestvedt at 7:54 AM on October 24, 2011


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