With 4,000-plus homeless Veterans in Los Angeles County, the challenge to find them housing and a stable place to live has been ongoing for years.
While various initiatives have been implemented, barriers have prevented the kind of success civic and community leaders have desired.
“We’ve seen federal dollars dedicated to health and rental assistance since 2009 with the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program and it was a great start,” said Margarita Lares, Director of the Assisted Housing Division for the Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles. “But we soon discovered the many barriers related to housing homeless Veterans. We’re hoping we now have a solution with our all-new Landlord Veteran Incentive Program.”
With the help of County funding, the Landlord Veteran Incentive Program, referred to as “Landlord VIP,” officially launched in January 2016, and is designed to incentivize local Los Angeles County landlords by providing one month’s rental payment to hold vacant units and an expedited process to get vetted Veterans into an apartment or house who have secured a VASH voucher through the Housing Authority.
While the VASH Program has existed for several years, Lares noted that there was still a concerning gap for Veterans in their quest to secure housing.
“Homeless Veterans are left to locate housing on their own in addition to coming up with money to complete a rental application and pay for a security deposit,” said Lares. “The VASH program does not assist with the up-front costs associated with securing a rental unit, and that has been a huge barrier for Veterans.
“We needed another pocket of money to bridge the gap and help these individuals with move-in costs, such as, deposit and utility startup costs that are needed just to get their feet in the door,” said Lares.
On top of that, the number of available units is less than three percent in Los Angeles, placing homeless Veterans at an even greater disadvantage since they are often competing with non-subsidized renters that don’t have some of the issues faced by homeless Veterans.
“We need to entice landlords to rent to a Veteran and we believe that the Landlord VIP is the solution” said Lares. “We understand the risks, but we’re hoping this incentive will encourage them to give it a try.”
Additionally, Lares stated that the Housing Authority will intervene on behalf of the landlord if any issues or concerns arise after a Veteran is housed.
Over 400 Veterans currently have Los Angeles County VASH vouchers in hand, however they are struggling to find units and secure housing. This is a reoccurring issue for the Housing Authority as they have witnessed an alarming 643 VASH Vouchers expire since the inception of their VASH program. This is proof that there is a gap of services for Veterans in their quest to secure housing.
“Helping our Veterans secure housing is a fundamental step in improving their quality of life,” said LA County Supervisor Don Knabe. “It can be a start to going back to school, landing a stable job and giving them a chance at a brighter future.
“These men and women have sacrificed so much for us and our country – we must find a way to provide homes for our heroes.”
Interested Veterans are encouraged to contact the Greater Los Angeles VAMC at 310-478-3711. If you are a landlord wanting to learn more about this program and the opportunity to help local Veterans, please e-mail the Housing Authority at LandlordVIP@hacola.org , or call (626)586-1572. You can also visit the website at www.hacola.org.