Each day a squad of outreach workers searches the streets of Los Angeles County looking for ex-soldiers -- men and women with military training who may have fought in foreign wars but now have other enemies to battle: homelessness, addiction, unemployment.
Once the workers find the veterans, the former soldiers are directed to services that will help them repair their lives and reenter society.
The workers “instill hope,” said Dwight Radcliff, site director for the United States Veterans Initiative, which runs the program. “They bring the veterans over to the program to show there is a way out, that other people are making it.”
The Inglewood-based organization will now be able to offer at least 140 more homeless veterans bed and support services, courtesy of a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The grant, announced last month, is among $47 million in assistance funds for the homeless that HUD has awarded Los Angeles County.
Such grants are awarded to cities nationwide each year. The $47 million will help fund 16 new programs, including the United States Veterans Initiative, along with 59 existing programs.
“We are particularly thrilled that over half of the supportive housing funds are for new programs,” said Mitchell Netburn, executive director of the Los Angeles Homeless Authority, which applied for the competitive funds. “This represents one more step toward our goal of ending homelessness within 10 years.”
The funds are administered by the authority and the Los Angeles city and county housing authorities.
Known as Continuum of Care funds, the federal money is awarded to local agencies that collectively provide the array of services needed to move people from homelessness to housing. The award is the largest in the nation, with the exception of the one to New York City, which received $67 million this year.
(In addition to the $47 million in Continuum of Care grants, HUD awarded Los Angeles city and county $4.4 million for emergency shelters.)
Funding for new projects will add 128 family units and 274 efficiency units or beds to the county’s supply for the homeless, said Siri Khalsa, director of development and communications for the authority. Among the project’s targets are veterans, mentally ill youths and young mothers who have recently been emancipated from foster care.
The United States Veterans Initiative plans to open housing for homeless veterans in Compton and expand its program in Inglewood.
In Compton, the group will use a $2.4-million HUD grant to provide 80 beds at transitional housing to homeless veterans who are parolees or who suffer from substance abuse problems or mental illness. The Inglewood facility, which was awarded $2.2 million, will provide permanent housing and services to 60 veterans with chronic disabilities. The veterans will also receive a range of services at the Inglewood site, which already provides housing and services to hundreds of veterans.
Until now, the housing authority has not funded any shelter beds for homeless vets in either Inglewood or Compton, Khalsa said.
“By their nature, homeless folks don’t have an address, but we do try and spread the programs and the funds countywide,” she said. “This was a real exciting one.”
Radcliff said he was moved by the unmet need of veterans and others in the area.
“They need job training,” Radcliff said. “They desperately need education and a track toward homeownership. They need a piece of the American dream.”
A veteran of the Air Force, Radcliff was once addicted and homeless. At New Directions, a residential facility in West Los Angeles, Radcliff received services that helped him get his life on track. His transition from addiction to studying at UCLA, he said, can be repeated in the lives of other homeless vets.
Last winter in Los Angeles County, 9.3% of clients in the winter shelter program were veterans, Khalsa said. “There are a lot of homeless vets out there.”
In Santa Monica, $2 million in HUD funds will help support Safe Haven. Operated by the Ocean Park Community Center, the new project will offer 25 beds to homeless people with chronic mental illness. The center will also include a drop-in center expected to serve 200.
Not all of the funds will be used to create new beds. In the San Gabriel Valley, the Tri-City Mental Health Center was awarded $600,000 for Project CARE. The new project will offer outreach to people living on the street and provide case management and referrals to about 900 over three years.
The HUD award to Los Angeles County includes most areas of the county, except Long Beach, Glendale and Pasadena, which submit separate applications.
In addition to the Los Angeles County award, several other cities and counties in Southern California also received grants: Pasadena, $2.1 million; Orange County, $9.7 million; Riverside County, $1.7 million; San Bernardino County, $5.1 million; and the Ventura County Homeless and Housing Coalition, $1.3 million.