On a day when we honor the men and women who've served in the
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has not done enough to address this shameful situation. For years, activists and advocates have been urging the department to repurpose some of the existing unoccupied buildings on its sprawling 387-acre campus in West Los Angeles, turning them into permanent supportive housing for homeless vets, many of whom suffer from debilitating brain injuries or mental disabilities. But the VA has been maddeningly slow; it is currently overhauling just one building, in hopes that, eventually, some 65 vets will be able to live there. Two other buildings on the property have long awaited renovation.
Now, with a court ruling hanging over it, the VA has a chance to jump-start the process.
In August, a federal judge ruled that the VA had misused the West L.A. campus by leasing some of the property to
Meanwhile, UCLA, desperate not to be banished from its beloved
Putting aside that insensitive reference to homelessness and the insignificance of the free-ticket program, we nevertheless agree that the presence of the stadium on a small portion of the VA land isn't the big problem. Homelessness is.
Instead of appealing the decision, UCLA could play a helpful role by urging the VA to sit down with the plaintiffs to work out an agreement that meets the needs of the interested parties but also ensures that the federal government fulfills its responsibility. If baseball stays, great. But what is most important is that homeless veterans finally get the housing and healthcare services they need on the West L.A. campus. That's why the VA owns the property, after all. Renovating the two other buildings that have been proposed for permanent supportive housing would be a good start.
UCLA, to its credit, has a decades-long history of involvement with the VA's health services on that campus. Hundreds of doctors and residents work there throughout the year, and there are a variety of programs at UCLA that concentrate on veterans' medical and health needs, including Operation Mend, which provides extensive reconstructive surgery — free — to veterans who have suffered severe, deforming injuries.
Whether the school could offer additional services targeted specifically to homeless veterans, and whether it could pay the VA more than the $5,000 a month it does now for use of the stadium, are negotiable points for UCLA. "Everything is on the table," says Kevin Reed, UCLA's vice chancellor for legal affairs. Mark Rosenbaum of the