The Department of Veterans Affairs this month unveiled plans to end veterans homelessness in Los Angeles by 2016.
The move came as the agency is racing to meet its goal of eliminating the same problem across the country by the start of next year. So far, the VA is not on pace to meet its national target, having brought only about one-third of the veteran homeless population off the streets since the effort began in 2010.
The Los Angeles program serves two purposes, bolstering the nationwide initiative and allowing the VA to end a legal dispute over how the agency uses its 387-acre campus in West Los Angeles.
The plan, announced last week, was part of a settlement involving the VA campus, where the agency has been leasing land for commercial uses despite its designation as a “National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers.”
A federal judge declared the leases illegal in 2013, so the VA promised this month to open the property to permanent and temporary housing as part of an agreement to end the dispute.
The settlement also requires the department to “develop an exit strategy” for non-VA tenants on the property, create a master plan for the land and expand programs for ending veteran homelessness in the LA area with help from national experts.
Additionally, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald said last month that he would dedicate $50 million and 400 workers toward the Los Angeles region to help the agency meet its goal of ending veteran homelessness there in conjunction with local authorities and experts.
The VA announced in August that it had reduced the nationwide homeless-veteran population to about 50,000 individuals, representing a 33 percent decline compared to 2010. That puts the agency on pace to end veteran homelessness by 2022, which would not accomplish its goal.
The plan to bring veterans off the streets of Los Angeles could help the VA meet its target, since it focuses on one of the highest concentrations of homeless veterans in the country — estimated at about 4,000 to 6,000 individuals in the region.
The Obama administration last year also injected an additional $270 million toward its nationwide initiative. The funding went toward rental-assistance for about 9,000 chronically homeless veterans and grants aimed at helping up to 70,000 veterans return to permanent housing or keep their homes.
The VA did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday about its progress toward reaching its goal this year.