Friday, June 10, 2011

For Shame

Here's an ugly statistic for you, courtesy of the Los Angeles Times:

Of the estimated 107,000 homeless veterans in the United States, about 8,200 are in the Los Angeles region, the VA says, citing 2009 figures. More chronically homeless veterans reside in Los Angeles than in any other city. Some sleep on the sidewalks just outside the VA fence.

That there are so many homeless veterans in the nation is astounding. That so many of those homeless vets are located in Los Angeles which has a huge Veteran's Administration campus developed on land originally donated for the purpose of providing housing for veterans is even more shocking. But the story gets even worse.

Contending that the region's population of disabled homeless veterans has reached crisis proportions, a coalition led by the ACLU of Southern California filed a lawsuit Wednesday alleging that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs has misused large portions of its West Los Angeles campus and failed to provide adequate housing and treatment for the people it was intended to serve.

"This is the first lawsuit of its kind in the country seeking to end homelessness for U.S. veterans," said Mark Rosenbaum, legal director of the ACLU's L.A. office. "In Los Angeles we have a 387-acre parcel deeded in 1888 for the specific purpose of housing a permanent home for U.S. soldiers, and it's now housing rental cars, buses, hotel laundry facilities and state-of-the-art sports facilities for a private school." ...

Rosenbaum said the ACLU would be calling on VA officials, legislators and the White House to launch a congressional investigation into how the sprawling campus has been used. Some of the companies occupying portions of the property under an "enhanced sharing agreement" include Enterprise Rent-a-Car; Tumbleweed Transportation, a charter bus company; Sodexho Marriott, a hotel laundry facility; the UCLA baseball team; and Brentwood School, a private school with state-of-the-art sports facilities on the campus. Such uses limit the amount of land that can be devoted to housing veterans, the lawsuit contends.

VA officials claim that the money from those private rentals funded programs for veterans using its services. Even so, why are there other vacant or underused buildings on the campus which aren't being converted to housing/treatment facilities for homeless vets? Why are those homeless vets sleeping on the sidewalks just outside the facility rather than on beds inside the facility?

The answer, of course, is that the Veteran's Administration is not getting the funding and the mandate it needs to get the job done. Congress and the White House is willing to spend billions on fancy tanks and fighter jets, drones and munitions, but not on the men and women who fight those wars, declared and secret, which just keep on keeping on.


Utterly, completely shameful.

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