Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald was in Los Angeles Wednesday with a mission: convince area landlords to rent apartments to homeless military veterans.
While Los Angeles has made progress towards ending veteran homelessness, there were still about 2,500 homeless vets in L.A. County as of December 2015. Of them, about 800 have a government housing voucher — but can't find a landlord willing to accept it.
Officials have been plagued for months with the high number of housing vouchers out on the streets of L.A. that can't find a home.
McDonald's appeal, while not the first the V.A. has made to landlords, was personal.
More than 150 nonprofit workers, landlords, and government employees gathered to hear him at UCLA's James West Alumni Center on Wednesday morning. So many people showed up that extra chairs were brought out, and even then it was still standing room-only inside the venue.
"I’m here for L.A.’s homeless veterans who may need help," he told the crowd. "You’re here because you can help. You’re here because you want to help and we very much appreciate that."
There were nonprofit workers on site to help the landlords figure out exactly how they could participate in the program — called VASH, for Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing.
Leonard McClendon, who owns 10 units in L.A., liked what he heard. He says knowing that the VA is adding so many different supportive services to help vets with housing vouchers makes a difference.
"With all the entities that are involved, I think it might be well worth the effort once again to revisit and to get the units in preparation for our VA’s," he said. "I’d like to give something back to them."
McClendon says that the long wait times to actually get voucher payments from the government has been a problem in the past. But he feels that the VASH program has fixed some problems.
Once he heard that wait times could drop from a couple months to just days, McClendon said he was on board.
"So, I’m back on board if indeed they can do that – let’s get this puppy started," he said.
McClendon says he could have two of his apartments ready for veterans in a couple weeks.
That means the V.A. needs just 798 more.