Searching for homeless Veterans on LA’s Skid Row

Secretary Bob McDonald walked the streets of LA’s Skid Row with local volunteers and VA employees last week, and tallied the homeless during the city’s annual point-in-time, or PIT count.

Overnight January 25-26, 2015, the annual point-in-time homeless count was held in Baltimore. VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, U.S. Housing and Urban Development and Baltimore City officials participated in this year's count. VA photos by Robert Turtil.

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson participated in this year’s PIT count in Baltimore, Maryland. VA photo by Robert Turtil.

As they made their way through alleyways and backstreets lined with tents and makeshift shelters, they stopped to talk and ask, “Are you a Veteran?”

PIT counts are conducted across the country during the last 10 days of January. The data gathered from the interactions with the homeless is used to verify the effectiveness of outreach programs and to see where resources and services are needed. For a city like LA, where there are more homeless Veterans than anywhere else in the country, the numbers are vital.

“One of the things you learn in the Army is you never leave a buddy behind,” McDonald said to more than 100 volunteers at the LA Mission. “Unfortunately, we’ve left some people behind, and they’re our homeless Veterans. But I’m here to tell you that we at VA … are totally committed to achieve the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of the year.”

The information collected is part of the overall effort to end homelessness among Veterans. Earlier in the week, McDonald signed a historic agreement dedicating the West Los Angeles VA Medical center to helping Veterans in need.

Olson, McDonald sign agreement

Ron Olson and VA Sec. Bob McDonald sign a historic agreement that dedicates the West LA Medical Center campus to serving Veterans in need. VA photo by Reynaldo Leal.

The agreement turns the corner on a long-running legal dispute and creates a plan specifically focusing on serving homeless Veterans, women Veterans, aging Veterans and Veterans that are severely disabled. McDonald will appoint a special assistant, who will report directly to him, to oversee the plan’s implementation with the necessary resources and support.

“When we end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles,” McDonald said, “we effectively end Veterans homelessness throughout the country.”


Reynaldo Leal

– Reynaldo Leal is a public affairs officer for VA’s office of Digital Media Engagement and member for the VAntage Point’s staff. He is a proud Marine Corps Veteran who deployed to the Al Anbar Province with 3rd Battalion 5th Marine Regiment in 2004 and 2006. He also took part in some of the heaviest fighting during Operation Phantom Fury in 2004.


  1. George Patrin    

    “When we end Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles, we effectively end Veterans homelessness throughout the country.”
    However, we must look at those about to lose their homes due to faulty disability review processes inappropriately removing disability claims due to inadequate mental health evaluations and poor treatment. A Veteran is about to become homeless in Salem, Oregon due to irresponsible leadership and healthcare. This happens despite assistance from family and trying in vain to help the VA see what they are doing. Let’s consider why and how Veterans currently on the street got there to prevent others from taking their place once we find!

  2. Janice Flahiff    

    Surely we have the resources in this country so that all homeless can get at least the basics…stable shelter, etc.
    Yes, we are called to help homeless veterans, but nonveteran homeless also deserve more, because they are human.
    We can do better, America!

  3. Don Preskitt    

    please check on all the vets with bad discharges that came back from vietnam. most deserve better that that. and a lot of them got bad discharges because of PTSD. all that were there deserve some help from va. not disrepected . thank you

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