For L.A. Area Veteran Homelessness, It’s The Beginning Of The End: Guest Commentary

When I arrived in Los Angeles 16 months ago as the director of the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (GLA), the facility’s staff and the community immediately showed me its greatest intent — to get homeless veterans off the street and into places they can call home.

Ending veteran homelessness is about more than land and permanent housing — it’s about providing housing with services that are individualized to meet the critical needs of our veterans. At GLA, we know that providing these wrap-around services allows veterans to reintegrate into the community and prevents them from falling back into homelessness.

In 2016, more veterans were placed into permanent housing in greater Los Angeles than in the entire state of Texas or all of New England. But at GLA, we acknowledge that there is more work to be done. We are actively aligning our resources and collaborating with our national homeless program office and community partners to find a home for every veteran who is homeless.

We have enacted a focused plan that includes a hiring surge to increase the number of staff providing outreach and clinical services to homeless veterans. We have refined strategies to improve data quality, which helps us more accurately target services to the most vulnerable homeless veterans and realign resources to support these efforts.

Currently, there are 500 veterans in greater Los Angeles holding Housing Choice vouchers, which are housing subsidies that make rent more affordable for eligible veterans. Finding rental properties for these veterans remains a top priority.

GLA continues to provide services and allocate resources to veterans experiencing homelessness. However, we can’t do it alone. Even as we maximize Department of Veterans Affairs resources and housing subsidies, it is still not enough to get every veteran off the street and into a home.

We need a full alliance with the community to provide support and resources, and to aggressively address the lack of affordable and sustainable housing. Incentivizing landlords to rent units to homeless veterans is critical, as is working with developers to build new housing stock and provide veterans with the support that they need to remain stably housed.

GLA is committed to continuing partnerships with local homeless service providers to connect eligible veterans with appropriate resources, as well as continuing the progress on the West L.A. campus to implement the draft Master Plan. I am proud to say that we are on target with our draft Master Plan timeline and we are continuing to move forward.

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The most recent achievement is the long-awaited opening of Building 209, which, as of June 9, provides permanent supportive housing for 54 previously homeless veterans. We will celebrate these veterans with an official ribbon cutting June 16, and announce new details about future housing opportunities on campus.

When there is a large problem to address, such as ending veteran homelessness, it’s important to start by measuring the breadth and scope of the issue. Each year, GLA participates in the Los Angeles point-in-time count to get a snapshot of veteran homelessness in the city. But now, we have evolved from an anonymous snapshot of homelessness to identifying homeless veterans by name, allowing GLA and the community to work collaboratively to connect those veterans to housing.

For the first time in Los Angeles, we have a comprehensive and reliable by-name list that identifies homeless veterans across our system. When we know who these veterans are, we are able to help them. VA is engaged with community, city and federal partners to ensure this list is consistently updated, validated and used to drive engagement.

Knowing the unique needs of each veteran and being able to match them with services can both end their homelessness and reduce the likelihood of relapse back into homelessness.

Ending veteran homelessness in L.A. and throughout the country is an ambitious yet attainable goal. We are addressing the challenges that come along with this goal and acknowledge that there are some setbacks, but at GLA we remain committed to VA’s mission to end homelessness.

I pledge to continue to work diligently with our community partners and utilize all available resources to achieve this important goal and ensure that every veteran has a place to call home.

Ann Brown is medical center director of the Veterans Administration Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Source : http://www.dailynews.com/opinion/20170615/for-la-area-veteran-homelessness-its-the-beginning-of-the-end-guest-commentary

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