Tuesday, February 11, 2014

About Damned Time

(Cartoon by Joel Pett/Lexington Herald-Leader (1/9/14) and featured at McClatchy DC.  Click on image to enlarge.)

I've written before of the shameful way we have treated our veterans.  Those who have served this nation during times of war (declared and undeclared), who have sustained injuries which are visible and invisible, have returned only to find that many of the promises made to them remain unfulfilled.
The results of those broken promises are heartbreaking.

One of the most shameful of those results is that there are so many homeless veterans with various kinds of disabilities including drug and/or alcohol addiction, brain damage, and post traumatic stress disorder.  It took a long time for Congress to wake up to these needs and to appropriate more (but not enough) money to the Veteran's Administration to begin addressing these problems. 

And the VA is starting to do its job with the money allotted.  Here's the first hopeful sign I've seen in a long time.

From the LA Times

For years, the effort to establish housing for chronically homeless veterans on the VA's sprawling West Los Angeles campus has been painfully, shamefully slow, as mistrust and inertia have impeded progress at the same time that two wars have dramatically increased the need for action. Finally, there may be a chance for a breakthrough. A new piece of legislation, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), would clear the way for the Department of Veterans Affairs to enter into long-term lease agreements with developers and service providers to transform two vacant structures, known as Buildings 205 and 208, into housing with therapeutic services. Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the House.

It's disturbing that anyone is homeless in the United States, and it's particularly disgraceful — as Feinstein noted in a statement — that so many military service veterans are homeless. An estimated 6,300 live in Los Angeles County, the largest concentration of homeless veterans in the country. The VA has said for years that it would renovate three buildings on its grounds to house the homeless. Work is currently underway on just one, Building 209.

Like I said, it's only a start.  Renovating the two buildings will mean housing for 200 homeless vets.  That's only a drop in the bucket, but as the vets move into these structures and get the treatment they need, many will be in a position to move on with their lives, find more traditional structures to live in, perhaps even secure jobs.  That means others will move into the structures on the VA grounds.

 Additionally, if this works, it will hopefully open the door to shelters for more of these homeless vets in Los Angeles and provide a model for vets all over the country.

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