By Marcie Polier Swartz
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Nimitz Aircraft Carrier is 4.5 acres long. All 19 American carriers add up to nearly 65 acres of deck space. That’s an average of 3.4 acres per vessel. Vessels can hold up to 6,000 service men and 60 aircraft. One hundred fourteen aircraft carriers would fit onto the 388 acres of the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System (VAGLAHCS) campus. Now picture them covering the campus from stem to stern.
Turn them around. Now!
That is the mandate coming from the underserved Veterans who are suffering because the VA isn’t yet the model we all hope for. And the criticism of the surrounding communities is unrelenting. Can what’s perceived as wealthy communities really help homeless Vets and Vets currently under VA care? Yes. Government agencies are very good at broad strokes. But they need local partners to build a thriving community, and progress on this front continues to be made.
Since January, 2015, the VA and LA Community Partners have housed over 8,000 Veterans and this number continues to grow. In June, Building 209 on the West Los Angeles VA Campus officially opened and now permanently houses 54 of our vulnerable Veterans. This is just the first step in the implementation of the draft Master Plan.
Our greatest need is the development of new housing and engaged landlords who will rent their units to our nation’s heroes. In a tightening market, the development of housing stock is a primary focus of the teams at the VA. There are still many more Veterans that need help in the VAGLAHCS catchment area, which includes Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.
Two years ago, North Brentwood Village and the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce created Village for Vets (V4V) as a support group for the VA GLAHCS. V4V sustains the VA’s mission. Involved citizens and community leaders raise funds for the VA. Village for Vets contributions to the VA include meals for homeless Vets, supplies for permanent housing units, 100+ community volunteers for the upcoming Homeless to Housed Stand Down on Oct. 27 and 100+ volunteers for the Nov. 11 Veterans Parade.
So, where do you fit in?
You can volunteer or donate. The next big event is the “Homeless to Housed” Stand Down on Oct. 27. You can register or volunteer at www.bwscampus.com/standdown
Along with a dynamic network of committed support groups, the VAGLAHCS is executing the new Master Plan and is becoming the beacon to Veterans they were always meant to be. The VA may have done it backwards by enabling some of the neighbors to grow and thrive around the main event, which never materialized. Well, it is now…