As the son of a WWII Marine drill sergeant and having served in the U.S. Military myself, I have a deep appreciation for and am committed to our soldiers, both active and veteran.
In 1888, Mr. Jones, a gold prospector turned United States Senator, along with the beautiful heiress, Arcadia Bandini de Baker, deeded some of their extensive land holdings in West L.A. to the federal government for the explicit purpose of providing homes for old soldiers, many whom had fought in the Civil War.
I believe that the 1888 deed is more than just a historical relic; it is a promise and a birthright to the men and women who have served and honored this country.
The land deed says quite clearly that the property is to be used by the government to “locate, establish, construct and permanently maintain a branch” of the precursor to the VA, The National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. We must emphasize the word “permanently.”
For many years, the land was used as such a home. The Pacific Branch was created to give aging military veterans a place to live out their years. But by the 1960s and 1970s, permanent housing for veterans was closing down — leaving only short-term housing.
For now, the Veterans Administration has allowed the leasing of land to a variety of non-military organizations on the 387 acres that make up its valuable West L.A. property including Sodexo Inc., Enterprise Rent-A-Car among others. They all lease land from the U.S. government, but that’s not what John P. Jones and Arcadia Bandini de Baker had in mind when they gifted the land.
I support the ACLU and other organizations in their struggle to compel the Veteran’s Administration to use its West L.A. campus to address the plight of homeless veterans.
Recent law suits and legislation have been attempted. In 2011, a lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and several others against the VA on behalf of four homeless veterans. But even under the best circumstances, the outcome of the law suit will still leave the housing needs of veterans far short.
A recent survey taken by the Veteran’s Administration, shows there are more than 6,000 homeless veterans living in the Los Angeles area.
Because soldiers deployed multiple times to Iraq and Afghanistan, are at a significantly increased risk for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and brain injury, experts expect the incidence of homelessness among returning soldiers will escalate faster than it did after previous wars.
I promise to stand strong with our military people, our veterans and all those who are fighting to give the VA Land back to them.