More than 8,000 vets in Los Angeles have gotten the help they need to find a home since 2014.
But there are still 4,800 of them in L.A. County who are homeless – the highest anywhere in the country.
It's a profound problem for the region as it not only tries to fight homelessness, but also help those who stepped up to serve our country when America needed them.
Take Two looks at what's being done and how it could be better with a roundtable of experts.
- Keith Gren, a 13-year veteran with the U.S. Army who was also homeless for 9 years. He's currently a spokesman for New Directions, and lives at their housing complex in North Hills.
- Heidi Marston, Director of Community Engagement & Reintegration Services at the West L.A. Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
- Tod Lipka, CEO of the local non-profit Step Up, which offers supportive housing for veterans in L.A.
If you are a vet in need of help, or would like to know more of how to help others
- Call 211, a resource for L.A. County residents to connect them with services
- The V.A.'s hotline at 877-4-AID-VET, or visit www.va.gov/homeless
- Step Up, which offers supportive housing and services, based in Santa Monica (www.stepuponsecond.org and 310-394.6883)
- New Directions, which provides permanent supportive housing and more, located at the West L.A. Veterans Affairs campus (ndvets.org and 310.914.4045)
Keith Gren, you have a physical disability from your service. That caused problems in your civilian job and you were eventually let go, which led to your homelessness. When you needed help, did the VA let you down?
Yes sir. The resources, they were there. I just didn't know how to advocate for myself to actually get in to it.
There's way too much red tape. I should be well on my way to figuring out a system, but it's too difficult.
Heidi Marston, you're from that system. You're with the V.A. Did you let him down?
It's exactly what you said, Keith, the system is huge. It's hard to navigate.
But there are a lot of changes that have been made in the past few years to try to help that.
So when people do come to us, we do have a "no wrong door" policy, and we have a way to not only engage you, but to make sure we stay engaged with you until you ultimately end up in housing.
When you a veteran such as Keith saying that the system let them down, do you get frustrated? Do you sometimes throw your hands up in the air and say, we're trying?
We use those examples to get better.
And, again, because of the complexities of the system, how large it is, there's always new things we're uncovering and new challenges.
So we want to hear those stories and those challenges so we can address them specifically.
Tod Lipka, Keith eventually got help through non-profits such as yours. Ideally, are you a stopgap? Because you seem to be more of a solution.
We don't really see ourselves as a "stopgap." We see ourselves in partnership with the V.A.
The V.A. has said to Step Up as well as New Directions, look, you have some expertise and some skills that we don't really have. So instead of trying to provide those, we want to contract with you.
So it's not really a stopgap; We're providing a complementary solution.
Find out more about the problems that vets like Keith Gren have had in trying to find housing help. Click on the blue audio player above.