Sixty-five homeless Veterans will have a chance to transition back into society when the renovation of a building is completed at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. As part of VA’s goal to end Veteran homelessness, the building will house a compensated work therapy and transitional residence program for homeless Veterans for whom previous recovery attempts have not been successful.
As VA Assistant Secretary Joan Mooney put it at the groundbreaking ceremony on January 25, “The fundamental aim of this program is to promote job-readiness. We will focus on providing resident Veterans with training in daily life skills necessary to live effectively among others, to obtain and maintain gainful employment, to care for themselves in a healthy way, and to meet their reasonable life goals.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to transition homeless Veterans into independent permanent housing in the community. Once Veterans are placed in permanent housing, VA will continue to actively manage their cases and provide additional services, including mental health, medical, employment assistance, and benefits.
Veterans in the program will live in a mix of studio and one bedroom units during their treatment. One wing of the building has been specifically designated for women under treatment.
The training planned for the resident Veterans includes life skills such as cooking, cleaning, learning to live with others, managing personal finances, shopping, and traveling to appointments.
The number of homeless Veterans in Los Angeles City and County fell by 22 percent between 2011 and 2012. That is a notable achievement, but it reminds us we still have much work ahead of us if we are to end homelessness among our nation’s Veterans.
Even one Veteran living on the street is one too many.
As Assistant Secretary Mooney concluded, “To put an end to Veteran homelessness, you can’t just treat the body. You must heal the mind, and the spirit. You must provide support, and encouragement. Perhaps most importantly, you must instill hope.”
Donna M. Beiter is the director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System.