LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — More homeless veterans in Los Angeles may soon have a roof over their heads after federal officials unveiled a plan Wednesday to build housing at the Veterans Affairs campus in West Los Angeles.
The plan comes as the U.S. government has agreed to settle a lawsuit in which the ACLU accused the Department of Veterans Affairs of misusing its sprawling health campus at 11301 Wilshire Blvd. while veterans with brain injuries and mental impairment slept in the streets.
VA Secretary Robert A. McDonald made the official announcement at the West Los Angeles Medical Center on Wednesday afternoon.
There are an estimated 4,200 homeless veterans now living in Los Angeles County.
On Wednesday, CBS2's Randy Paige spoke with one of them. John Marhsall, a former U.S. Army paratrooper who served two tours in Vietnam, but is now homeless, lives at the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.
"Self-esteem is very important," said Marshall, who turned 65 on Wednesday. "Once you get a place to live, then you can deal with anything else."
McDonald vowed Wednesday to give veterans like Marshall a place to live that they can call their own.
"We are moving forward together, designing a plan to end homelessness among veterans in Los Angeles County," the secretary said
At Wednesday's announcement, McDonald stood with Ron Olson, one of the lead attorneys representing veterans in the lawsuit filed against the the VA, and former Santa Monica Councilman Bobby Shriver, who has worked on behalf of homeless veterans for the past decade. Both sides in the lawsuit stood shoulder to shoulder Wednesday as they committed to President Barack Obama's goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of this year.
Wedged between Westwood and Brentwood, the West L.A. campus is the largest undeveloped property on the Westside, and part of the VA's largest health center. The grounds were deeded to the government more than a century ago as a home for old soldiers.
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