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Santa Monica Volunteer Groups Deliver Mini-Freezers to VA Campus


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

August 17, 2017 -- A contingent of volunteers from two Santa Monica community groups last week helped a wave of military veterans feel more at home at the expanded West Los Angeles Veterans Administration campus.

Fifty-four military veterans received mini-freezers last week from the Santa Monica Elks 906 and Santa Monica American Legion 123 for their new homes on the VA campus.

The veterans had all been homeless before finding permanent apartments in Building 209 at the VA campus just east of Sabnta Monica, officials said.

The freezers were paid for through a $4,500 “Welcome Home” grant from the Grant the Elks National Foundation, representatives of the service organizations said Wednesday.

Volunteers Present Freezers to VA campus
(From left) Lodge Secretary Don Checchi, PDDGER; Deidre Strom from Step Up on Second; Robert Duitsman, PDDGER (California-Hawaii Elks 1st Vice President); Jared Morgan (USMC Vet and  Adjutant for Santa Monica American Legion 123) and Vet recipient Ray E. with his new freezer.

The new housing is part of the expansion of services at the VA’s West Los Angeles campus that resulted from the 2015 settlement of a suit against the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

The suit filed by disabled veterans accussed the agency of misusing the land for more than four decades ("VA Releases Action Plan to End Homelessness Among LA’s Veterans," February 18, 2015).

Only part of the VA-owned 387-acre site was used for veterans during that period. But the settlement called for permanent housing for veterans, with some buildings on the site remodeled and others to be constructed.

The masterplan for the campus currently includes 1,200 housing units for homeless veterans -- or an 2,518 individuals.

The City of Los Angeles had 34,189 people who lived on the streets, in encampments, cars or in public locations such as parks and along the beaches in 2016.

Of those veterans, 1,093 were chronically homeless.

The plan also calls for increased health and mental health care, education and other services, as well as amenities on the campus for veterans who are not homeless.

To finish Building 209, the VA worked with the Veteran Housing Partnership and Santa Monica’s Step Up on Second, a nonprofit organization that operates as the service provider and property manager of the building’s supportive housing unit.

It opened on June 16, the initial phase of implementing the draft master plan to revitalize the West LA VA Campus.

Renovation of Building 205 and Building 208 is underway and will add another 100 units of permanent supportive housing.

Opening Building 209 to homeless veterans was “a step forward in restoring the West LA VA property to the Old Soldiers’ Home it was always intended to be,” U.S. Representative Ted Lieu, whose 33rd Congressional District includes the Westside, said at the time.

“No veterans who fought for our country should ever need to fight for a roof over their heads,” he said.


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