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Vouchers assist homeless veterans

OW Staff Writer | 6/9/2016, 3:21 p.m.
More than 1,500 formerly homeless veterans have found homes using federal vouchers, authorities announced this week.

More than 1,500 formerly homeless veterans have found homes using federal vouchers, authorities announced this week.

The Housing Authority of the County of Los Angeles (HACoLA) said veterans have used 100 percent of the vouchers available under its Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program.

Simply having a voucher does not always translate into being able to find a place to live, given soaring rental costs in many neighborhood countywide and a lack of affordable housing.

One problem has been a complicated leasing process that resulted in would-be renters losing units in a fast-moving, competitive market. The new approach to managing applications has resulted in a “drastic reduction” in the amount of time it takes veterans to complete the process, according t HACoLA.

The Landlord Veteran Incentive Program -- backed by $1.1 million from the Board of Supervisors aimed at speeding up the process of finding homes for vets—offers landlords up to one month’s free rent to hold available units.

The board has also helped veterans by streamlining the process to check eligibility and offering extra cash to cover move-in expenses.

HACoLA also successfully petitioned the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to increase rent caps in areas where rents are higher.

“VASH vouchers, coupled with the resources provided by the Board of Supervisors, are having a profound impact in eliminating homelessness among our veterans,” HACoLA executive director Sean Rogan said.

Rogan pointed to the recent homeless count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.

The point-in-time count showed that “while homelessness increased overall by 6 percent across the county, veteran homelessness decreased by an astounding 30 percent,” Rogan said. “It is no coincidence that homelessness dramatically dropped within a segment of the population that received supplemental local resources.”

Rogan acknowledged that the goal of ending veteran homeless is not yet a mission accomplished. The agency continues to advocate for more federal and state resources to address the problem.

County and city officials are struggling to keep pace with the growing number of homeless individuals, a greater percentage of whom are living unsheltered in street encampments.

The county is considering backing a ballot measure that would tax residents with income of more than $1 million as a way to raise money to combat homelessness. County Chief Executive Officer Sachi Hamai has estimated that the county needs to raise about $500 million in ongoing revenue to effectively address the issue.