Downey, Norwalk seek ways to help local veterans

By Arnold Adler

Contributing Writer

DOWNEY — The City Council has formed a subcommittee to seek funds for affordable housing and has approved the formation of a veteran’s council to assist local military personnel.

Mayor Claudia Frometa and Councilman Mario Trujillo were named as the subcommittee in action March 9, according to the city clerk’s office.

Meanwhile, neighboring Norwalk has taken a similar path with plans for a 60-unit, affordable housing complex for veterans at San Antonio Drive and Foster Road.

Construction is expected to start in early 2022, said Norwalk Community Development Director John Ramirez.

Frometa and Trujillo will work with staff to review possible federal, state and county grants and their feasibility, said Downey Community Development Director Aldo E. Schindler.

The call for a veterans council came from Mayor Pro Tem Blanca Pacheco and Trujillo, who currently make up a veterans subcommittee for the council.

Staff has proposed that the Downey Veterans Council would be made up of community members who would meet every two months to discuss and make recommendations on issues pertaining to veterans, said management analyst Juddy Montenegro in a report to the City Council.

Instead of a specific number of members, city staff envisions town hall type meetings where all veterans and community members would meet to share concerns, issues and program ideas, Montenegro told a reporter.

“The meetings would be open to the public and a city staff member would be designated to coordinate and publicize the meetings,” Montenegro said.

The goal of establishing the veterans council would be to engage the local veterans community by bringing them together to increase awareness and recognition of Downey veterans and service members, share information pertaining to resources and services available to local veterans, provide networking opportunities among members and, when appropriate, assist City Council with veterans programs and events such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day ceremonies, Montenegro said in her report.

In Norwalk, talks are ongoing between the city and Mercy House, a nonprofit agency that would oversee the veterans complex and offer programs to help veterans and their families, Ramirez said.

It is proposed that a representative of  Mercy House would reside in one of the units in the complex, with an estimated construction cost of $20 million.

Mercy House oversees several housing projects including the 50-bed Bellflower Temporary Homeless Shelter on Cedar Street in the south part of that city.

The approximate 1.5-acre Norwalk site is city-owned and currently used for storage. It originally was the location of a county library and later a senior citizens center.

The Norwalk City Council has enlarged the original site with the purchase of two residential properties to the immediate south and a commercial site to the west.