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Dozens of apartments for homeless veterans remain empty in Los Angeles

78 units are empty despite a push from the city and the Department of Veterans Affairs to house veterans.
Nicholas Slayton Avatar
The main campus of the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center. (Courtesy UCLA Health)

Dozens of new apartments set aside for homeless veterans in Los Angeles remain empty two months after opening. 

Of the 120 new apartments that opened in May on the approximately 400-acre Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles, only 42 are occupied. Los Angeles news outlet LAist first reported on the vacancies, citing data provided by the VA. People have been identified to move into the space, but only a third have.

The reason for delays is unclear, as different agencies told LAist conflicting information. The VA said that the apartments were waiting for the final inspections on the housing’s disability requirements and that they are waiting on approval for the veterans’ applications. The city said the apartments have been cleared, and both the City and County of Los Angeles (which work together on homelessness) said applications for 111 veterans had been approved. A housing nonprofit working with the VA said that the City of Los Angeles didn’t approve the housing payments until June 5, a full month after an opening ceremony for the new apartments.

As of press time, the Department of Veterans Affairs has not responded to Task & Purpose’s questions regarding the vacancies.

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The 120 apartments opened in May. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was attended by local officials as well as VA Secretary Denis McDonough. The VA promised to create 1,200 housing units on the campus — which also houses extensive medical facilities for veterans — to end a lawsuit from the ACLU in 2015, but has been years behind schedule on meeting that promise. Veterans are eligible for the new VA apartments through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing or HUD-VASH program.

Los Angeles has the highest percentage of unhoused veterans in the United States, at 3,456 according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2022 point-in-time homeless count. That was the same number that the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority’s 2022 homeless count found. The full data for the 2023 homeless count has not been released, however overall homelessness in the City of Los Angeles increased 10 percent over 2022, up to 46,260, while the County saw a 9 percent year-over-year increase to 75,518 unhoused people.

The West LA VA campus was also close to “Veterans Row,” a large encampment of unhoused veterans set up on the outside perimeter of the VA. Dozens of veterans lived there until they were relocated to a shelter in late 2021; McDonough had promised to find permanent housing for all of the veterans who were camped there.  

The West LA VA campus is also home to several “tiny home” shelters — which advocates and service providers do not consider permanent housing — which has dealt with their own issues, including a fire in September 2022 that damaged or destroyed 15 of the small structures. No one was hurt. 

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