09/25/2013 11:09 am ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

Housing Our Veterans

One in four homeless people are veterans. Los Angeles continues to be the epicenter for homelessness among veterans around the country. We continue to be challenged in creating affordable housing for veterans and their families, yet we are very optimistic about dveloping solutions that will greatly impact our entire region. As we continue to house more and more veterans every single day I am always amazed at the gratitude veterans show as they move into their own home, and continue their efforts of rebuilding their lives. Every day, veterans in our program come up to me as I am visiting with them or as they stop me on my way to meetings, and simply say, "thank you." One of the joys of my life is when I see veterans transform their lives in a short amount of time, and are now successful in their endeavors to get the needed services they seek.

Five years ago, Californians approved Proposition 12 that authorized a $900 million bond to help military veterans buy homes and farms. According to the Los Angeles Times none of these bonds have been issued. Recently law makers passed a bill that would let voters amend Proposition 12 to shift two-thirds of the bonds to build affordable apartments for veterans, with an emphasis on projects that align rental housing with services for the homeless.

New Directions for Veterans has longed been concerned with the issue of homelessness and providing housing as part of our mission. All Angelenos know that there is little affordable housing in our community, and if we are to end homelessness, affordable housing is vital.

Our veterans have so much to deal with when they come back from serving our country, having a place to call "home" should not be part of that problem. And for each generation of veterans, some return home with the invisible wounds of war that can benefit from a special transition home that includes the kind of services that NDVets has long offered in our transitional facilities. Ultimately, it is important for us to heal our veterans as they transition from the military. The effects of combat or just being in the service have had a dramatic impact on all veterans and their families.

Now NDVets is excited to offer permanent supportive housing to homeless and disabled veterans -- men and women who can live independently but need some services onsite to pull their lives together. On September 27th the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, A Community of Friends and New Directions for Veterans will host a grand opening at New Directions Sepulveda I & II on the Greater Los Angeles V.A. Medical Center's Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center in North Hills. There, two formerly vacant buildings have been rehabilitated into 147 studio apartments for 147 homeless and disabled veterans in our first permanent supportive housing developments.

The New Directions for Veterans Sepulveda I & II offers a total of 147 individual studio apartment units, and a resident manager's apartment in each building. The project is the result of a three-way partnership among A Community of Friends, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and New Directions for Veteran. ACOF is a nonprofit developer of affordable housing targeted to mentally ill people who would otherwise be homeless. NDVets is the service provider for most of the veterans who are moving in, and the V.A. will also provide services there. An array of services is available for veterans onsite, with easy access to V.A. medical services nearby.

NDVets is also partnering in two additional permanent supportive housing developments for veterans that are under construction now. One is in El Monte, where Mercy Housing California is developing the El Monte Veterans Community which will include 40 studio apartments. The second is Boyle Heights, where 32 one-bedroom apartments are being built for homeless, single veterans age 55 and older. The developer there is the East Los Angeles Community Corporation. New Directions for Veteran is proud to continue to partner in creating more affordable permanent housing for homeless and disabled veterans.

Many veterans remain homeless due to the lack of employment and financial stability. New Directions for Veterans believes in not only providing housing, but also equipping veterans with skills to acquire solid employment. With many community partners, we provide financial and computer literacy, specialized job training and much more. With these tools, we provide a foundation from which all veterans can reintegrate into our community -- ultimately some will become entrepreneurs, business owners and homeowners themselves. We are proud to be a partner in providing the first permanent housing ever on V.A. grounds, and look forward to doing more around the country.