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West LA veterans facility slow to help homeless




People walk past a homeless war veteran explaining his plight hoping for assistance while standing along Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, on August 22, 2012.
People walk past a homeless war veteran explaining his plight hoping for assistance while standing along Hollywood Boulevard in Hollywood, California, on August 22, 2012.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images

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The new director of the West Los Angeles Veterans Home, Thomas Bucci, is tasked with speeding up  the slow progress of the half-empty facility. In June 2010, $253-million was pledged for the facility to create a 396-bed veterans home managed by the California Department of Veterans Affairs.

As chronicled by the Los Angeles Times' Steve Lopez, the building remains half vacant because it was constructed without a kitchen, which became a problem when a food service contract evaporated.

Meanwhile, L.A. County has the unfortunate distinction of having the most homeless military veterans in the country, more than 6,300. Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to end veteran homelessness in the city of Los Angeles by 2016.

Whether anyone will be able to use the sprawling land and facilities in Westwood is an open question. Veterans advocates have protested and taken legal action over alleged misuse of the land and a failure to help ailing and homeless veterans. Recent mediation into the matter has failed. Why has Veterans Affairs been slow to help the problem of homeless vets?

Guests:

Maj. Gen. Peter James Gravett, Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs

Toni Reinis, Former Executive Director of New Directions - an organization that offers housing, counseling, training, drug abuse treatment and more to veterans in LA County.

This piece is part of KPCC's ongoing coverage of issues affecting veterans for Veteran's Day 2014. See more of our coverage at KPCC.org/vets.