The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has issued a formal request for Expressions of Interest from homeless housing providers for only one of the three buildings on the VA West Los Angeles campus that the VA committed to devote to veterans’ housing in August of last year. The request, issued by the VA on Friday, July 11, says that the one building – Building 209 – “will require significant corrections costing approximately $7,211,090.”
At last week’s July 8 Santa Monica City Council meeting, VA Chief of the Office of Asset Management for the West L.A. campus Ralph Tillman said that he hoped to have a contract with a homeless housing provider for the one building by January 2009 and that the other two buildings would be utilized at some time in the future as part of “a phased approach.” Councilmember Bobby Shriver, who has been working on the effort to house homeless veterans in the buildings for nearly four years, expressed frustration at the slow pace of the project.
On Friday, July 11, Shriver toured the three buildings with Patrick Campbell, Legislative Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Building 209, which was locked, was entirely vacant. The VA request for Expressions of Interest notes that “[t]here have been no significant construction/repair projects in the building in the last 10 years.”
One of the other buildings was also vacant, and the third contained some office facilities (occupational therapy, supportive employment) that had no dedicated fixtures – facilities that could be easily and quickly moved, Shriver noted.
After touring the three buildings that had been pledged to housing homeless veterans, Campbell visited the facilities of New Directions, a residential veterans assistance organization elsewhere on the VA campus. Executive Director Toni Reinis told him that their building had been vacant for 20 years before its 1996 rehabilitation. The cost estimate for that rehab was $15 million, she said, but the actual cost turned out to be only $5 million and was completed in one year.