Read Westside Today articles below.
IT’S A NEW DAY AT THE VA - SAFE PARKING for VETERANS!
Los Angeles - The nonprofit agency Safe Parking LA will launch a pilot program for homeless veterans at the VAGLAHS Campus starting Wednesday April 18. People living in their vehicles will be assigned a place to park overnight and will be provided with access to bathrooms, showers, social services and eventually housing. “This proves that the volunteers serving on neighborhood councils have the ability to go beyond playing an advisory role and can actually organize to take action and make a direct impact on what happens here in our communities” said Dr. Scott Sale, the founder of Safe Parking LA.
Village for Vets will be partnering with Meals on Wheels to provide meals and snacks for the homeless Veterans. This will be a continuation of the Homeless Meals Program at the VA which currently provides 50 meals a day to the homeless Vets who visit the campus daily.
The approvals for this program dramatically sped up after Congressman Lieu’s Roundtable Meeting on February 26. Janet Turner, Sr. Field Rep and Constituent Services was our host at the Belmont Village Westwood. The room was full of representation from Westside community groups. The VA Leadership gently and carefully outlined their support for this program not knowing what reaction they might get from the crowd in the room but I could feel the excitement. I suggested we form a Task Force to spearhead funding and any additional approvals, and almost everyone in the room volunteered showing how much pent up desire there is on the part of the community to support Veterans and the VA and to have a real effect on lowering homelessness.
The following is a list of the groups that volunteered for the committee that night: Westside Homeless Veterans Task Force; Venice Homeless Committee, WLA Neighborhood Council, Pacific Palisades Community Council; Westside Regional Alliance of Councils; Citizens Veterans Engagement Board; Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce, Village for Vets; and many individuals and relatives of individuals in the room that night. No one was going to let this great opportunity go unfunded.
Now Veterans who are experiencing homelessness will have an opportunity to sleep safely in their vehicles on the West L.A. campus. They will have access to the supportive services necessary to complete their transition into permanent housing. “Partnerships like this help to further our mission of providing a ‘no wrong door’ approach. Not only can our Veterans who are sleeping in their cars feel secure at night, but Safe Parking on the West LA campus facilitates access to wrap around supportive services, bringing us one step closer to ending Veteran homelessness” said Heidi Marston, Director of Community Engagement and Reintegration at VAGLAHS. This arrangement will start small with approximately 10 parking spaces but will grow as demand increases
Join us by visiting Village for Vets at https://villageforvets.org/donate.html. Your donations will allow us to reach our goal of providing hot meals for our nation’s homeless Veterans.Commit to partnering with the VA to create a 21st Century, state-of-the-art home for our Veterans. For more information on Safe Parking L.A. visit their website: https://www.safeparkingla.org/.
IT’S A NEW DAY AT THE VA - PARTY TIME! EXCELLENT!
Indulge me while I take the time to look back to February and to tell you about this year’s Super Bowl Sunday 2018.
Marisa Miller, volunteer, Marcie Swartz and Pam Dawber, Village for Vets, Cory Morris,
Ret Lt. Colonel US Army; Outreach, Community Engagement & Reintegration Services (CERS)
by Marcie Polier Swartz
Thursday evening, February 8, 2018 the VA hosted a Veteran’s Town Hall at the Wadsworth Theater on the VA Campus. Something was different tonight. I attribute the difference to three factors. First, it looked like there were over 200 people in attendance – a record for sure. What a difference a crowd makes. The comments and questions were positive and interesting. The VA staff, this time sitting on a panel on the stage, welcomed every question like they always do, and somehow the answers were more uplifting. The audience was pulling for the staff in a new way. The Vet groups, usually so contentious, with heartbreaking cause of course, were more thankful and respectful of the enormity of the tasks at hand.
What else made a difference? The VA introduced Megan Flanz to the community. She is an L.A. native given the task of overseeing the implementation of the Master Plan. Heave a sigh of relief. Ann Brown, Heidi Marston, Ian Musa and the other VA brass finally have the help they need to shoulder the task of revamping 388 acres, servicing 1.4 million Veterans, housing Homeless Vets, running programs and working miracles for all of us.
Thirdly, Jesse Creed from Vet’s Advocacy and the CVEB (Citizens Veteran’s Engagement Board) announced he was successful in navigating no less than five separate layers of bureaucracy in the city of Los Angeles to get funding approved for the Master Plan from Proposition H and HHH. I hope you are applauding at home. The Master Plan, which funding is not yet federally appropriated for, will have to be a public private partnership. And it looks like that fact is finally meeting acceptance from Veterans. The voters, the city, the VA and the future looks a little brighter tonight.
Craig Joyce from Path, Oliver Viletta – Navy Veteran (2001-2009), Marcie Polier Swartz
of Village for Vets and Jennifer Turchin of the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce.
I often get this question: Why can’t you train the homeless Vets to work?
I often give this answer: Have you ever noticed a close family member or friend who just can’t work and is frankly better off for it? Have you ever noticed that sometimes certain people when forced to work have so much work-related anxiety that they make others around them uncomfortable as their own levels of anxiety rise off the charts? Some homeless Veterans get housed and are not be able to find meaningful work. So what. It’s a process.
Village for Vets has created Income Stipends for Veterans who are living independently but can’t quite make ends meet. On December 9, at the Brentwood Festivus (holiday event) we awarded our first $10,000 stipend to PATH on behalf of a Veteran family. They will buy the family a used car, car insurance and two car seats for their adorable kids. It was deeply moving and reflective of the Holiday Spirit. PATH stands for People Assisting the Homeless and can be found at http://www.epath.org/site/main.html.
So many of you have been asking why ‘they’ can’t create emergency housing for homeless Vets on that large VA campus? These are disgruntled words mixed with the frustration of wanting the problems to disappear and government funding to magically wipe it all away. Where is all the promised development? Why can’t the government pay for development now?
The government can’t wipe these problems away. They need a partnership with the community at large to achieve lasting solutions. Become part of the solution by joining Village for Vets (www.villageforvets.org) today. We are the support group for the VAGLAHS and together we are helping homeless Vets.
Our Daily Meals Program on the VA campus, a partnership with Meals on Wheels and the Westside Food Bank, is getting sandwiches, fruit and Think Thin high protein bars into the hands of hungry homeless Vets every day. We going from 5 to 7 days this year as Brentwood School has stepped into the role of weekend provider. We hope to add hot meals to our program this year. The better our program gets, the more homeless Vets will come to the VA to use it.
Marcie Polier Swartz
Village for Vets
by Marcie Polier Swartz
VAGLA Campus, West Los Angeles: On Monday November 27, 2017, UCLA held a reception in the VA’s Rose Garden to celebrate the completion of the Veteran Family Wellness Center and the Veterans Legal Clinic, both of which are open now.Ann Brown, Medical Center Director of VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, always funny and selfless, acknowledged the enormity of her role and the contribution UCLA is making to meet the needs of Veterans at the VA. Her work has resulted in an upgrade from a 1 star to a 3 star rating, in less than two years.
Steve Young, Deputy Under Secretary for Health for Operations Management, Department of Veterans Affairs, gave a stunning speech. Quoted here:
“…the collaboration that is taking place between the Department of Veterans Affairs and our partners, like UCLA, are critical to our goal of transforming the VA. But VA can’t do it alone. It takes an entire community to truly welcome Veterans home. That’s why VA leaders across the country are participating more actively in community-based efforts to maximize the collective impact of these partnerships – something we know well in Los Angeles…Legal problems – ranging from restoration of driver’s licenses to eviction proceedings, child support and family law – can often shape Veterans’ access to care, and their health outcomes…this is particularly true of our homeless Veterans. Improving the overall care of Veterans means understanding their experience, and how seemingly minor problems can have a compounding effect on all aspects of life….The UCLA Veterans Legal Clinic provides Veterans access to the legal services they need to gain their benefits and in many cases, end their homelessness….”
Los Angeles has the largest homeless Veteran population in the country. Whatever their path to housing may be, the UCLA Veteran Family Wellness Center, targeting the Veteran and their families, gives LA Veterans access to leading experts in both military to civilian transition and child and family wellness. Together, UCLA and the VA are supporting the ‘whole’ Veteran.
Mr. Young continued, “Leveraging the world’s leading experts with focused research efforts is what led to VA inventions like the nicotine patch, the CT Scan, and implantable pacemakers. That’s why I know it’s only a matter of time until we start seeing the diffusion of best practices in how to care for our homeless Veterans, coming from right her in LA with this partnership.”
Congressman Ted Lieu, a Veteran, reminded us that the UCLA Veteran Family Wellness Center is the only entity at the VA that can treat the Veteran’s entire family. Most services are focused solely on the Veteran which leaves the Veteran’s most important support group untreated.
Jonathan Varat, Dean and Professor Emeritus of the UCLA School of Law and the Chief Liaison for the UCLA partnership with the VA, thanked everyone for their support. He and his staff, which enjoy the deep commitment of Chancellor Gene Block to the UCLA/VA partnership are committed to excellence of care. They are already exceeding the requirements for sharing a piece of the VA’s 388 acres. Their clinics, centers, legal services and research will bring valuable expertise to bear on problems facing Veterans.
A note from Richard Valdez,
Legislative Director of the DAV Department of California:
I read the write-up re: the Stipends your organization provided (car etc.) and the meals. Outstanding, you and your organization are doing great work in support of our veterans in need by providing much needed support. I understand the concerns re: the homeless veteran housing situation, but I also know once the VA completes the EIS and lays it all out there for everyone to see the work will begin in earnest and it will be done right and legally. So right now, even though it feels like you're applying a band aide to a gaping wound, I see it differently, it's much needed triage, doing what it takes to keep them going until help arrives.
We know what the issues are, identifying viable solutions is what's required right now and your organization is doing just that. Now, it's just a matter of time for the Master Plan process (brick/mortar) to catch up and take affect. I have faith that it will. There's a saying in the military we all grew accustomed to and that is, "hurry up and wait."
Richard Valdez, PSC
DAV Depart. of California
It’s a New Day and the VA - Veteran's Oversight
Since the VA lawsuits of 2011 and the Settlement Agreement of 2015 new leadership has taken over the VA. Veteran’s Oversight Groups monitor the activities as mandated by the Settlement. Richard Valdez*, past Commander of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and currently Legislative Director for California, has been a constant presence while almost every article written about the VA since then asks …“Can the community really work with the VA and Veterans…?” (You can read the Settlement Agreement right here: https://www.aclusocal.org/sites/default/files/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/012815-West-Los-Angeles-California-Principles-for-Partnership-Framework-for-Settlement-Executed.ocr_.pdf)
As a community representative along with Jennifer Turchin, President of the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce, we invited Richard to dinner in early 2016. We had seen him at every meeting. We were hoping to get to know him and to develop a closer working relationship. Let me tell you what happened at the dinner. We ate, and he had a cup of coffee. His serious tone conveyed to us that friendship would not be earned over a dinner. He has been watching over our efforts to support the VA and now I think of him as a kind of guardian angel. Let’s talk to Richard today…
After the settlement agreement, you and your organization moved into a support and advisory role at the VA. What effect has that had?
“Well, Veterans were not being given the opportunity to express their thoughts on the agreements being made. I carried that message to Washington – to then VA Secretary Bob McDonald. Right on the spot he referred me to Vince Kane, his special assistant, who arranged a seat for us at the table.”
What positive changes has your participation resulted in?
“Our focus was solutions oriented vs. argument. The VSO Coalition (Veteran Service Organizations) studied the issues and had to consider the problems veterans face from the perspective of where they were in their life cycle and not from a static one point in life because veterans needs varied.
How many Vets does DAV serve every year?
“In West L.A. we serves several thousand Vets a year. We provide claims services and transportation. Our volunteer drivers cover over 100k miles a year driving Vets from home to the VA for their medical appointments and return them to their points of origin.”
There were many Veterans affected by the fires up north. We administered vouchers to them for emergency clothing food and shelter.
Does the DAV play a role in housing homeless Vets?
“Our primary focus is on assisting Vets with claims and appeals. That is the first step in qualifying for HUDVASH and other housing benefits.
What is your opinion of the Stand Downs in California?
“They are very important. The Veterans and the Community must come together to make it happen. The VA is doing their part. The VA needs the community to assist. Community involvement can enhance the Veteran’s Experience. Which also provides a positive experience for the Veteran’s families. The better they feel about themselves has a significant impact on the family.”
Your oversight helped us to provide legal services to many Homeless Veterans at the recent Stand Down at the VA. Richard, keep watching…
*Richard recently spoke at Congressman Ted Lieu’s Veterans Day Town Hall at the Wadsworth Theater. His service and career trajectory, which will be the topic for another day, was deeply moving and completely impressive. Like all Veterans, he is to be treasured.
When I tell people I’ve launched a support group for the VA, I get these reactions the most:
$ Isn’t that the Government’s job?
! Why haven’t they done more?*They announced that Master Plan, where is the new housing?
?Oh yeah, what’s happening?
I don’t think I’ve ever told you what connects me to the VA.
My dear father’s business, a chain of Army Navy Surplus stores paid our mortgage, put clothes on our backs and enabled us to go on family vacations. I used to watch him make sealed bids for government surplus. In summers, when I worked at his warehouse, we counted inventory. I smelled the leather in the WAC shoes. Some of them fit me. I counted uniforms, vests, coats. They were made of different cloths - wool, thick cotton camouflage and solids. The colors varied with OD Green (olive drab) predominating. I loved the muted colors, the feel of my hands running over the thick fabrics and the smell of the canvas. It permeated the air.
My Uncle Marty is a Korean War Veteran. He never talked about it. I know he has ribbons and pins. I’ve never seen them. He was doing well in college before the war, but when he came back he worked in one of my father’s stores. Then he had a Surplus store of his own.
My dearest brother is a six year Navy Vet. The VA has been very good to him since his return in 1999.
I don’t expect all of you will have similar reasons to feel connected to the VA although if you start asking you families and friends if there are Veterans amongst you, it might surprise you to find out just how close a Veteran is. What is their story?
And here is THE BIG REASON everyone can use to feel connected to our VA. The original gift of lands to the VA was made by Arcadia Bandini de Baker, Senator John P. Jones and John Wolfskills totaling least 753 acres. I have heard many stories as to total donated acreage over the years totaling up to 880 acres claimed by a Bandini heir at a Towne Hall meeting I attended. Here is a link to some of the facts: https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/veterans_affairs/pacific_branch.html.
Much of that acreage was used for the 405 Freeway and Wilshire Boulevard. Do you use these roads? Does the use of these lands help you earn your living and visit friends; go to dinners and play at parks and beaches? Do you feel connected to the VA now?
Do you still need to ask what the VA is doing? Or do you want to join us in helping the VA to uplift not only the Veterans but all of us as well.
PHOTO: WLAVA Credit: losangelesva.gov
According to GlobalSecurity.org, the Nimitz Aircraft Carrier is 4.5 acres long. All 19 American carriers add up to nearly 65 acres of deck space. That’s an average of 3.4 acres per vessel. Vessels can hold up to 6,000 service men and 60 aircraft. One hundred fourteen aircraft carriers would fit onto the 388 acres of the VA Greater Los Angeles Health Care System (VAGLAHCS) campus. Now picture them covering the campus from stem to stern.
Turn them around. Now!
That is the mandate coming from the underserved Veterans who are suffering because the VA isn’t yet the model we all hope for. And the criticism of the surrounding communities is unrelenting. Can what’s perceived as wealthy communities really help homeless Vets and Vets currently under VA care? Yes. Government agencies are very good at broad strokes. But they need local partners to build a thriving community, and progress on this front continues to be made.
Since January, 2015, the VA and LA Community Partners have housed over 8,000 Veterans and this number continues to grow. In June, Building 209 on the West Los Angeles VA Campus officially opened and now permanently houses 54 of our vulnerable Veterans. This is just the first step in the implementation of the draft Master Plan.
Our greatest need is the development of new housing and engaged landlords who will rent their units to our nation’s heroes. In a tightening market, the development of housing stock is a primary focus of the teams at the VA. There are still many more Veterans that need help in the VAGLAHCS catchment area, which includes Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo and Kern counties.
Two years ago, North Brentwood Village and the Brentwood Village Chamber of Commerce created Village for Vets (V4V) as a support group for the VA GLAHCS. V4V sustains the VA’s mission. Involved citizens and community leaders raise funds for the VA. Village for Vets contributions to the VA include meals for homeless Vets, supplies for permanent housing units, 100+ community volunteers for the upcoming Homeless to Housed Stand Down on Oct. 27 and 100+ volunteers for the Nov. 11 Veterans Parade.
So, where do you fit in?
You can volunteer or donate. The next big event is the “Homeless to Housed” Stand Down on Oct. 27. You can register or volunteer at www.bwscampus.com/standdown
Along with a dynamic network of committed support groups, the VAGLAHCS is executing the new Master Plan and is becoming the beacon to Veterans they were always meant to be. The VA may have done it backwards by enabling some of the neighbors to grow and thrive around the main event, which never materialized. Well, it is now…
by Marcie Polier Swartz
Brentwood School, Blushington and Beauty Bus Foundation “Day of Beauty” for Veterans at Blushington in West Hollywood, California on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. Photo by Moloshok Photography, Inc.
Every day more than 50 homeless Veterans come to the VA even though they are not formally enrolled in a program. The HUD VASH (Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Administration Supportive Housing) office does wonders processing them for low cost housing. The Welcome Center provides showers and a big living room with TV screens and a great place to hang out. And now Village for Vets, a charitable vehicle for the community at large to support our VA, has partnered with Meals on Wheels and the Westside Food Bank to feed the hungry Veterans. It costs barely $2.00 per meal or $500 per week to feed 50 a day. If you are inclined to help, visit www.villageforvets.org and click on donate.
The VA recently asked Village for Vets to organize 100 volunteers for the 3rd Annual Homeless-to-Housed Veterans Stand-Down event hosted at the Veterans Welcome Center on Friday, October 27, 2017 from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Brentwood School (BWS) is making it a reality by creating an agile on-line registration program. All volunteers will use this on-line form to register. Will you volunteer? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brentwood School awarded 120 full scholarships to children of Veterans for Summer at Brentwood 2017. Blushington and Beauty Bus Foundation, each founded by BWS graduates, hosted A special Day of Beauty for female Veterans on August 1, 2017. They brought joy, laughter, and beautiful smiles to the faces and hearts of veterans. And, on August 17 at 8pm, New Directions (http://www.newdirectionsmn.com/) will use the Brentwood School Theater to put on an original play they created in conjunction with Imagination Workshop. Admission is free and the community is welcome.
The big news from UCLA this month is the opening of the UCLA legal clinic for Veterans on the WLA VA Campus on August 21, 2017. The UCLA-GLA VA Family Wellness Center is also opening this month under the auspices of UCLA’s Nathanson Family Resilience Center. The Center will help families to mitigate stress through family centered education and preventive care services.
UCLA’s newest class at the WLA VA, Phone-tography, is a bit hit. Due to demand Wordcommando, the popular writing class has added an additional day. Under the instruction of Robert Morgan Fisher, aka Gunny, the veterans are not only learning how to express themselves but are getting published!
The vast acreage of the VA does not seem so big. I’m getting to know it like the back of my hand. You may wonder how the VA will accomplish the goal of creating a community on the campus. They have already started, and we all play a crucial role. Go to www.villageforvets.org to see how you can volunteer or donate. Go to BWS VA Partnership
to see how deep the programs at BWS go to support and effect better lives for the Vets on the VA Campus. For more information about UCLA’s clinics and programs contact Patty Robinson Smith at email@example.com WATCH FOR:
SERVED LIKE A GIRL – a documentary film by Lysa Heslov covering the Miss Veteran America Pageant. I saw the screening in August and what a moving way to get to know some of the women who choose to serve; how homelessness touches their lives and how they climb out of the abyss. Thank you again to Jaspen Boothe (pageant founder) and Lysa Heslov.
We’re all working together to help the VA create the Village for Veterans that it was always meant to have. What will you do?
One of the great satisfactions of being affiliated with Brentwood News is that often things we write about end up becoming the catalyst for positive connections. Sometimes these connections lead to very positive outcomes.
Last month, we wrote about 21-year-old Jacob Kaplan who was diagnosed with a rare cancer called Angiosarcoma. Jacob is the son of the owners of Brentwood Vacuum in Brentwood Village.
As a result of that article, a doctor in the area, who happens to specialize in this very disease, is now jumping in to help Jacob. Someone else who also suffers from the same cancer read the article and is now in touch with Jacob, offering “we’re in this together” support. Hooray! Good luck, Jacob. Brentwood is rooting for you.
Now we have another opportunity to pitch in.
Village for Vets, the nonprofit organization formed in 2016 for the surrounding communities to support the WLA VA, is seeking 100 volunteers to help organize the Stand Down that will take place on the VA campus Friday, Oct. 27.
Stand Down is the term used when combat troops rest after battle.
Our homeless veterans in Los Angeles are given a Stand Down every year. Volunteers gather at the VA to welcome homeless veterans, offering services like haircuts, access to medical and dental work, food, information about housing, pet spaying and women’s services.
This year the VA is expecting 1,500 veterans and family members to attend.
Volunteers are needed to assist with the registration booth, determining eligibility, serving food, the information booth, non-ambulatory veterans, setting up the night before, tearing down after 6 p.m. on the day of the event, parking, the water station and providing women’s support.
Last year, Maria’s Italian Kitchen donated 300 breakfast burritos. Village for Vets volunteers served breakfast to the Vets.
Michael Johnson of the WLA VA is organizing the VA side of things. Brentwood residents Marcie Polier Swartz and Pam Dawber are hoping to connect with prospective financial donors and volunteers.
My wife and I have already pledged to volunteer at the event. Two down, 98 to go. If you are interested in serving as a volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made via the website: www.villageforvets.org Hope to see you there!