By Robert L. Rosebrock
LOS ANGELES – America’s capital for homeless Veterans is not only in a state-of-emergency to house and care for thousands upon thousands of war-injured and impoverished Veterans, but it’s also in a state-of-emergency for trusting and caring VA leadership to end this crisis — NOW — not months and months, or quite possibly, years from now.
A small child could tell you that the homeless Veteran problem in Los Angeles is beyond “state of emergency” status. In comparison, downtown Skid Row makes the most poverty-ravaged communities of Third World countries seem safe and beautiful. What’s going on in Los Angeles is disgraceful beyond comparison or comprehension.
Moreover, lethargic don’t-care VA bureaucrats and listless politicians continue to deny there’s a crisis here as they slumber along year-after-year parroting their feeble promise of “we will end Veteran homelessness by the end of the year” while Veteran homeless continues to escalate.
To underscore the Los Angeles VA’s main priorities, this Sunday, 26,000 able-bodied runners participating in the LA Marathon will charge through the main thoroughfare of the VA while 20,000 disabled and destitute Veterans remain homeless and hungry, some living right outside the locked front gates to the VA.
On November 3, 2009 at the “VA National Summit: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans” in Washington, D.C ., then-VA Secretary Eric Shinseki unveiled a five-year plan to end veteran homelessness nationwide. In conjunction, President Obama repeatedly asserted that his Administration would do everything in its power to end Veteran homelessness within the five-year goal.
Well, it’s March 2015, five years and three months later and the homeless Veteran population continues to grow and Los Angeles is still our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans. Even worse, the Los Angeles VA is the most misused and abused facility in the nation, in addition to being the most corrupt.
On July 21, 2010, the Los Angeles Times ran an Editorial titled “Helping Homeless Vets” and criticized the VA for its indifferent attitude toward solving the problem. In it’s opening paragraph the Times condemned VA Secretary Eric Shinseki by proclaiming “what’s missing is a sense of urgency.”
On September 28, 2012 the New York Times ran an Editorial titled, “Veterans in Los Angeles, Still in the Cold,” and questioned: “When is the Veterans Affairs Department going to meet its responsibility to house chronically homeless veterans in Los Angeles on the large tract of government-owned land that should have been put to this use long ago? “
On October 8, 2012, the New York Times featured another Editorial about the VA’s neglect in caring for homeless Veterans in Los Angeles, this one titled: “Homeless Veterans: Whose Responsibility?”
The Editorial proclaimed: “Veterans and their advocates in southern California, the epicenter of veterans’ homelessness, are angry that President Obama and the Veterans Affairs Department have not built a single bed for homeless disabled veterans on the 400 acres the government owns in West Los Angeles, property that was deeded to the federal government for that very purpose in 1888.”
The VA’s land abuse and homeless Veteran problem is such a major issue in Los Angeles that even the New York Times attacked it twice within little more than one week.
On June 4, 2014, at the ritzy Hyatt Regency Hotel in LA’s fashionable Century City, First Lady Michelle Obama delivered a speech about Veteran homelessness and declared it to be “a moral outrage.”
Her outrage would’ve been more convincing if she’d given her speech at the Los Angeles VA and questioned why there’s so much misused land and vacant rat-infested buildings at the largest VA in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans.
Nevertheless, last year Secretary Shinseki resigned in disgrace and the VA failed to deliver on its promise to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2014, but the First Lady appointed Mayor Eric Garcetti to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by the end of 2015.
Ho-hum, another promise and another year added onto the five-year failed promise. This new promise is also a hoax as we can expect more of the same failure because Mayor Garcetti has never mentioned the Los Angeles VA property as a solution to house and care for disabled homeless Veterans.
That’s because the City of Los Angeles has a squatter’s lease (no signed agreement and no rent payment) and illegally occupies 12 acres of multi-million dollar VA property for a public dog park, public baseball diamonds, public soccer fields and a public parking lot — all to accommodate the neighboring Brentwood residents.
On November 4, 2014, the Los Angeles Times featured another Editorial titled, “The VA’s Urgent Problem,” and boldly decried: “The VA has an urgent problem that it has yet to treat urgently.”
In another paragraph of the same Editorial, the Times repeated: “The VA still has an urgent problem — homeless veterans — that it has yet to treat urgently.”
On January 1, 2015, the LA Times Editorial published its “wish list” for 2105 that included ending Veteran homelessness “by the end of the year.”
Three days later on January 3, 2015, Rafer Johnson, America’s legendary Olympic decathlon champion and civil rights icon who marched with Dr. King, Bobby Kennedy and Cesar Chavez, delivered a message of responsibility and urgency when he spoke before the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC), representing 96 communities.
Rafer steadfastly proclaimed: “Los Angeles is in a state of emergency for homeless Veterans and when there is an emergency, it is imperative to respond immediately. Why aren’t we using the nearly 400 acres of land at the West LA Veterans property to immediately provide temporary and or permanent housing for our homeless veterans?”
His profound message prompted the following Motion that was presented and unanimously passed at the LANCC meeting:
Los Angeles has the largest Homeless Veteran population in the Nation. Paradoxically, Los Angeles also has the largest VA Veterans Home property in the Nation.
Mayor Garcetti has pledged to end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles by the end of 2015 without ever mentioning the utilization of nearly 400 acres of land at the West LA VA property as a solution.
The challenge to end Veteran homelessness in less than 12 months must require immediate provisional, temporary and permanent supportive housing and healthcare and that will only happen at the Los Angeles VA property where there’s plenty of space and an existing VA Hospital.
The Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC) recognizes Los Angeles to be in a “state of emergency” for homeless Veterans and hereby requests that the Los Angeles City Council direct the City of Los Angeles with all of its resources and the Veterans Administration to unify and open a large-scale Crisis Humanitarian Relief Project on this land to immediately house and care for thousands upon thousands of disabled homeless Veterans
In just four sentences, humanitarian Rafer Johnson and 96 communities representing the citizenry of Los Angeles summarized and put forth the solution toward ending Veteran homelessness, while the VA bureaucrats and politicians refuse to acknowledge the same problem as urgent, a crisis, or an emergency.
Three weeks later on January 28, 2015, Robert A. McDonald, the newly appointed Secretary of the VA arrived in Los Angeles and called an impromptu press conference to announce the settlement of the landmark lawsuit against the VA.
Vigilant Veteran advocates were expecting him to declare a “state of emergency” and proclaim that the VA would evict the nine illegal occupants and implement immediate crisis housing on the Los Angeles VA grounds.
To the contrary, the Secretary finagled a secret compromise with imprudent officials and attorneys who were entrusted to represent the best interests of the plaintiffs; disabled and homeless Veterans.
These representatives irresponsibly and irreverently considered it “a good deal” when they agreed to vacate the Federal Judgment and give aid and comfort to the VA co-defendants and nine illegal occupants to continue controlling federal VA property instead of demanding their eviction and building emergency and permanent housing on these sacred grounds.
Yes, it was a state-of-emergency settlement and a good deal for the nine illegal occupants — wealthy and powerful special interest groups — as Veterans were cheated from reclaiming their land that was already stolen through the nine illegal real estate deals.
And there wasn’t any mention of a state-of-emergency and crisis housing at the VA for thousands upon thousands of war-injured and impoverished homeless Veterans.
The reprehensible settlement only hints at ending Veteran homelessness by the end of the year, after the wealthy and powerful dictate a “new master plan” that will essentially vacate the original master plan, i.e., the Deed of 1888.
Thus, the biggest land-fraud scam in American history was trumped by the biggest settlement-fraud scam in American history that was then trumped by the Secretary of the VA’s notorious photo-op trip to Skid Row that shamefully backfired on him when he was looking for a homeless Veteran and then lied about his own military service.
What happened in just a couple of days magnifies what has been going on every day over past decades at the largest VA in the nation … lying, cheating and stealing …. compounded by a growing population of homeless Veterans.
The fact that the Secretary of the VA was at the “belly of the beast” — Skid Row — looking for a homeless Veteran photo-opportunity also magnifies the double-edged sword of our state of emergency crisis here in Los Angeles with tens of thousands of homeless Veterans, and a federal bureaucracy that doesn’t care or know how to solve the problem.
On March 4th, I hosted a radio show at Skid Row Studios in downtown Los Angeles, titled “State of Emergency for Homeless Veterans” and my studio guests were Terrence Gomes and Ted Hayes. …. (Videotaped)
Terrence is a Military Veteran and Chairman of the Los Angeles Neighborhood Council Coalition (LANCC), representing 96 neighborhood councils that unanimously passed the Motion declaring Los Angeles to be in a “state of emergency.”
He spoke eloquently and passionately about LANCC’s role in stressing the necessity and urgency of taking action now by establishing a large-scale crisis housing facility on VA property.
Ted is a legendary activist for the homeless and major supporter for ending Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles.
He also spoke eloquently and passionately about LA’s state of emergency and elaborated on the necessity to build pre-fabricated geodesic domes for immediate housing on VA property like the successful project he built in downtown Los Angeles years ago before his land rent was increased nearly 700%. See www.DomeVillage.us
We discussed the need for new thinking toward ending Veteran homelessness by calling upon the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to immediately build crisis housing and dining facilities on the VA property and to call upon the National Guard to provide operational assistance, instead of the usual “non-profit” organizations that are unprepared to meet this enormous challenge and in no hurry to end it.
After all, many non-profit organizations profit from the Veteran homelessness situation so why would they ever look at this as being in a state-of-emergency or have any goal to end the problem?
The foregoing notwithstanding, it’s important to point out that the LANCC Motion was presented at the February 10th VA Congressional Investigative Hearing regarding the Los Angeles VA’s gross mismanagement and failure to provide immediate housing and care for homeless Veterans.
During the Congressional Hearing, U.S. Representative Jackie Walorski, R-Ind., questioned VA representative Skye McDougal on the VA’s position regarding the state-of-emergency Motion and Ms. McDougal hem-hawed and dodged the question, stating they’d look into it for the master plan six months away.
Incredulously, a Member of Congress questions a VA representative about a state-of-emergency Motion to end Veteran homelessness that is representative of 96 neighborhood councils, but Ms. McDougal saw no sense of urgency other than D.C. bureaucrats might evaluate it months away.
Think about all this: The Los Angeles Times and the New York Times, two of the largest news publications in the USA, featured Editorials questioning the VA’s lack of urgency to solve the decades-old problem in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans, and further questioned why the VA property in Los Angeles is not being used as a solution.
A unified coalition of 96 neighborhoods within in our nation’s capital for homeless Veterans unanimously passed a Motion declaring a state-of-emergency and directed the City of Los Angeles to partner with the VA to establish crisis housing on VA property.
A member of our United States Congress then questioned a VA bureaucrat about the misuse of VA property in our nation’s capital for Veterans and wanted to know if the VA agreed with the state-of-emergency Motion and crisis housing.
All of these powerful forces clearly understand that Los Angeles is in a state-of-emergency for homeless Veterans, but the powerful and entrusted force that is responsible to end it — the VA — just doesn’t care.
Albert Einstein rightfully noted that you cannot solve your problems with the same kind of thinking that created them.
In sum, until President Obama admits that the VA is in a state of emergency for new and trusted leadership, Los Angeles will continue to be in a state of emergency for homeless Veterans.
God Bless America and the Veterans Revolution!