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VA fails to meet promise of housing 450 vets in April

VA Secretary Bob McDonald cuts the ribbon opening the renovated Building 209 on the West LA Veterans Campus on June 4th 2015. The building will house 65 vets and cost $20 million to renovate.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald cuts the ribbon opening the renovated Building 209 on the West LA Veterans Campus on June 4th 2015. The building will house 65 vets and cost $20 million to renovate.
KPCC/John Ismay

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The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs failed to meet a promise to house 450 homeless vets in Los Angeles in April, officials told KPCC.

They only managed to place a fraction - about 220 vets - into permanent housing that month, according to Vince Kane, Special Assistant to VA Secretary Bob McDonald.

"They didn't hit their target," Kane said.

According to Christina Margiotta, Vice President for Community Impact at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, the biggest problem is simple economics: with vacancy rates at an extremely low 3 percent, landlords can get more money from tenants on the open market than they can from the housing vouchers through the VA.

"What we identified as the major barrier was a lack of willing landlords," said Margiotta.

The United Way's "Home For Good LA" program works with the VA to house homeless vets.

Margiotta said 500 local vets are holding vouchers but haven't been able to find a landlord willing to take them.

She said her agency is trying to encourage landlords to participate. She said she got promises from 25 of them at an event Friday morning.

The most recent homeless count in Los Angeles found 4,362 of them were veterans. That was in January. The number was only 6.5 percent less than the last count two years ago.

And that's a problem. President Barack Obama has set a goal to house all veterans by the end of the year.

The promise to house 450 Los Angeles-area vets in April was one of 13  made in the VA's "100 Day Pledge" in February, after settling a lawsuit alleging misuse of the agency's West Los Angeles facility. According to VA leadership, they met the other 12, which involved improving outreach to homeless veterans and connecting them to services.