Outreach crews, sheriff’s deputies and federal officials worked with residents of a homeless camp on the outskirts of the West Los Angeles VA campus Monday in hopes of clearing the longtime encampment that has become known as Veterans Row.
Some residents in the Brentwood area have long decried the encampment as an eyesore in the upscale neighborhoods, while also expressing dismay that many veterans were forced to live in ramshackle tents erected on the sidewalk in the shadow of the VA complex.
At least two homicides have occurred at the encampment, most recently in September, when a man was stabbed when authorities say he tried to intervene in a dispute between a man and his girlfriend.
U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough recently toured the encampment, and last month he vowed to find temporary housing for about three dozen homeless veterans who have been living in the encampment, while also saying hundreds more homeless vets would be given shelter by year’s end.
On Monday morning, sheriff’s deputies joined outreach workers and other officials to begin the process of relocating the homeless to secure tents and tiny homes on the VA property.
“The VA, they’re committed to offering services around the clock,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters at the site. “They’re trying to get the staffing, which is a huge improvement … so that is a big help. So now, someone shows up here at 10 o’clock at night, odds are they’re going to be able to find a place to lie down, and it’s not going to be on the sidewalk.”
At least one resident of the encampment told KNX Newsradio that he was looking forward to moving onto the VA campus into sturdier structures that include running water. Homeless in the new facilities will also be provided with meals.
It was unclear exactly how many people were residing in the encampment, which has been in place for about two years, or how long it would take to complete the relocation effort. A small section of the encampment had already been dismantled by mid-morning Monday, with crews also working to pick up trash that had accumulated on the sidewalk.
McDonough said the VA had deployed a team to meet with the vets living in the encampment and get them into housing. He also indicated the VA would work to provide housing for another 500 veterans in the Los Angeles area by the end of the year.
His announcement last month was met with praise from local elected officials.
“I’m pleased that, following his visit to the West L.A. VA (in October), Secretary McDonough is taking concrete steps to address veteran homelessness in Los Angeles,” said Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance. “During the visit, I urged the secretary to prioritize veteran homelessness at the agency, and specifically to focus on Southern California. He reaffirmed his and the Biden Administration’s commitment to this effort and today’s announcement reflects that.”
Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, called the announcement “the exact kind of leadership needed to get folks in homes.”
“This crisis is not going to go away overnight, it’s going to take concerted efforts at all levels of government in collaboration with outside groups to get this done,” Bass said. “Addressing this crisis cannot wait.”