by Sarah B. Hunter: For Complete Post, click here…
When the encampment dubbed Veterans Row was emptied last week, dozens of tents, tarps, and flags disappeared from San Vicente Boulevard. But moving 40 or so people onto the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus is a minimal step forward: An estimated 3,900 veterans live unhoused in Los Angeles.
That number, which has remained essentially unchanged since 2015, makes L.A. the epicenter of unsheltered veterans in the United States. It remains the case after years of promises—such as Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2014 pledge to end veteran homelessness or the 2016 master plan (PDF) to create 1,200 supportive housing units on the VA grounds, which is 95% incomplete and might not be done until 2031.
Other regions haven’t stalled so badly. Nationwide, the population of veterans experiencing homelessness was cut nearly in half (PDF) between 2009 and 2019. Three states—Connecticut, Delaware, and Maryland—and 82 communities report having functionally eliminated the problem, meaning a permanent housing solution is typically available for veterans within 90 days.
Admittedly, none of those places are confronting the acute, widespread homelessness that plagues Los Angeles. Still, the city has the largest VA medical center in the nation. There are federal housing programs exclusively for veterans. So why hasn’t Los Angeles been able to make a dent?