The homeless population in Los Angeles is one of the most talked about veteran homeless populations in the country. That is because it is one of the fastest growing homeless populations in the country. In the past year or so, some folks at the ACLU started raising some ethical questions about a 390 acre plot of land owned by the LA Veterans Affairs office. This land was donated to the VA in 1888. The original owners of the land stated usage intentions when they deeded the property over to the VA.
Of course “usage” needs will have changed from 1888 to now, but the intent is constant. Help veterans. More specifically, the land was supposed to be used to provide housing for wounded veterans. Any veteran will tell you that the definition of “wounded” has certainly changed over the past 130 years.
The status of this land though, is not quite a oasis for veterans. For the first 100 years or so, the land was used as intended. Around the 1970’s the VA vacated buildings (which are still there today, abandoned) and changed how the land area was being used. Among these uses are leases of property sections to commercial companies ranging from car rental agencies to the large hotel chain, Marriott. Also built on this property are a golf course, a dog walking area, and a baseball stadium for the nearby university. It will be surprising if the defense produces any valid defense other than that they are using the rental income to pay for other veterans’ programs. (This is, of course, my opinion, not actual news. We’ll keep you informed of what they actually try to use as a defense strategy.)
Mark Rosenbaum, one of the lawyers representing a group of veterans from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, believes that even with an estimated 76,000 homeless veterans in LA (as of 2 years ago), the VA could eliminate veterans homelessness in LA if they used this land appropriately and smartly. He additionally says that the buildings and rental car parking lots could be “made suitable for these veterans in less than the five or so months it took to plan and invade Iraq.”
A drawback to the lawsuit is that it is not all-encompassing. If successful, the lawsuit will only provide for a requirement that housing be provided for veterans deemed to be mentally disabled, not all homeless veterans.
Photo thanks to SamPac under creative common license on Flickr.