Partnership formed to help vets facing homelessness

Wave Wire Services

LOS ANGELES — In efforts to assist veterans at-risk of homelessness, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass has announced a new partnership with two nonprofits that will provide resources such as eviction defense and rental assistance.

The Mayor’s Fund of LA, a nonprofit closely associated with City Hall and overseen by an independent board of directors, and U.S. VETS, a nonprofit with a mission to end veteran homelessness, will work together to provide resources to veterans in need and their families.

Some services will help veterans obtain access to federal funding, case management and career and employment counseling.

“With the same courageous rigor that you serve this county, we must now serve you and today plays a direct role in that,” Bass said during a morning news conference at City Hall April 9. “Too often our own system fails you.”

Bass said veterans often must choose between accepting benefits or accepting housing. Choosing to accept benefits can make them ineligible to receive housing assistance, she said.

“I will tell you that in going to (Washington) D.C. several times and meeting with Secretary of Veterans Affairs [Denis] McDonough — we’ve tried for months to see if the VA could waive this,” Bass said. “We determined that couldn’t happen, and so we are actually going to need legislation in order to change this.”

As the chair of the U.S. Conference of Mayor’s Homelessness Task Force, Bass will lead 40 mayors to the nation’s capital later this month to lobby Congress for this specific change.

“We’ve been able to build housing for veterans that sit vacant because veterans can’t qualify,” she said.

Mayor’s Fund President and CEO Conway Collis said the partnership with U.S. VETS will make a difference to veterans.

The Mayor’s Fund of LA has launched its We Are LA program, which aims to prevent evictions by connecting renters with resources. Staff members conduct outreach, provide case management, highlight local, state and federal resources renters can apply for, and also offer legal services to fight eviction.

The program may also help renters pay back some of their overdue rent.

We Are LA program workers who run into veterans can now refer them directly to U.S. VETS, which can provide rental support immediately, as well as connect them with resources specifically geared toward veterans.

Darryl Vincent, CEO of U.S. VETS, describes the nonprofit as the “largest veteran service providers combating veteran homelessness.” He said that in the last 30 years they’ve been able to drastically decrease the amount of veterans experiencing homelessness in Los Angeles.

“We want to bring everyone to the table so that we can get the most diverse ideas to get the best ideas because, at the very least, our veterans deserve our very best,” Vincent said.

On April 8, two organization also announced a combined $2.8 million donation to the Mayor’s Fund in an effort to expand their work and reach more Angelenos at-risk of homelessness. The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation gave $1.5 million and Health Net gave $1.3 million.

The two organizations join L.A. Care Health Plan, which made previous investments totaling $1.8 million, as the program’s largest donors. L.A. Care Health Plan’s donation helped the program get off the ground.

Bass recognized L.A. Care Health Plan’s “generous donation” and commended The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation and Health Net for taking a similar step and joining the effort.

“This is not a fight we will win if private philanthropy does not lock arms with us in this effort to provide the life-saving resources that Angelenos deserve,” Bass said in a statement. “Thank you to our philanthropic partners for locking arms and partnering with us to confront the greatest challenge facing our city.”

On top of outreach, the We Are LA program offers a hotline and organizes tenant resource clinics to help reach anyone who may face eviction. A member of the program will connect with a person in need of help, then a caseworker assesses all of the resources available to that individual and helps them through the process of applying for government, other charitable aid and even legal services.

“There were nearly 6,000 notices of eviction filed in March alone,” President and CEO Conway Collis of the Mayor’s Fund said in a statement. “These are life-saving gifts that will help us prevent thousands of Angelenos — including families and children — from falling into homelessness.”

The Mayor’s Fund has served more than 32,000 individuals and families to help them avoid eviction and stay housed.

“The Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation is proud to support Mayor Karen Bass’ emergency homelessness plan with We Are LA and their efforts to reach out to hundreds of thousands of Angelenos facing the threat of eviction and connecting them to services and support,” Linda Hope, chair and CEO of the Bob & Dolores Hope Foundation, said in a statement.

Hope also thanked the organization for assisting veterans, an issue that was near and dear to her parents’ hearts.

“My mom and dad always had a heartfelt devotion and concern for those individuals who have and continue to serve our country,” Hope said in a statement. “They believed that prevention was an intricate step in any effort to help those at risk, and their foundation was created, in part, with the hope of meeting the needs of all those individuals.”

The Mayor’s Fund created the program more than eight months ago. It has also helped residents in need with programs such as Medi-Cal, CalFresh and earned income tax credits, officials said. More than 350 pro bono attorneys provide legal information and defense as well.

“Housing is a critical key to health, with research showing that housing stability, quality, safety and affordability all affect our physical and mental health outcomes,” Martha Santana-Chin, president of Medi-Cal and Medicare at Health Net, said in a statement.

She added, “Moreover, homelessness significantly undermines preventive health measures and exacerbates existing health issues.”