Homeless veterans outside of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) West Los Angeles medical campus will have their day in court, according to a decision by Judge Otero.
The ACLU has filed a suit on behalf of disabled and homeless veterans to stop the VA from renting VA land to corporations rather than use the facilities to house the homeless. Over one-third of the 387-acre campus is currently used for purposes other than aiding veterans.
The land in question was donated by the late senator John P. Jones and Arcadia B. de Baker in 1888. The purpose of the donation was to develop permanent housing for displaced veterans. Instead of using the land for the stated purpose, the VA decided to lease the property for commercial purposes in the 1970’s.
Homelessness is a particularly acute problem for veterans who are 50 percent more likely than other people groups to end up homeless. This means one out of every six homeless Americans is a veteran.
According to attorney Ron Olson, “It shames each of us as a society that our government allows those who fought for their country to sleep on the streets while it leases the property deeded for their care to businesses and recreation.”
Instead of doing the right thing by honoring the intent of the deeded property, the VA attempted to dismiss the claim. The attempt was denied.
Meanwhile on the East Coast, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki, with rocker Jon Bon Jovi, announced new plans to help the homeless everywhere else in the country using technology.
In a counterintuitive move, VA has looked to web and smartphone apps to help provide access to mobile resources for homeless veterans. The VA has asked the development community to create a national platform that will unify services, such as clinics and food kitchens.
Lately, the VA has been turning to IT for fixes to everything from the disability claims backlog to now veteran homelessness. Underneath the hood of such projects lies many billions of taxpayer dollars in the form of government contracts.
While stimulating the economy is good, I for one would like to see the VA make smart and fair choices from the onset. For example, let’s use the property donated to help homeless veterans to create housing for those same homeless veterans. Just a thought.
This may make me a maverick, but at some point common sense solutions must prevail.