A “safe parking” program for homeless veterans who live in their vehicles is coming to the Veterans Administration campus on the Westside, Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin announced Friday.
The pilot program at the VA campus that borders Brentwood and West L.A. will start in the next two weeks and be operated by the nonprofit Safe Parking LA, according to Bonin’s office. It will be the third such pilot program in Los Angeles and the second operated by Safe Parking LA.
“This is phenomenal news, demonstrating the VA’s renewed commitment to serving our homeless veterans,” Bonin said. “This is sign of much more to come on the VA campus, and I hope it is the first of many safe parking sites on the Westside.”
The program offers people living in their vehicles an assigned a place to park overnight, along with access to social services and an avenue toward housing. The program at the VA will initially be limited to veterans and 10 vehicles, with the goal of growing in capacity to potentially dozens more, according to Scott Sale, executive director of Safe Parking LA.
“A safe parking program at the Los Angeles West LA VA will not only be a model of a great public, private partnership, but also could be a template for VA campuses all over the country,” Sale said.
Two other safe parking pilot programs are operating in Los Angeles. Last month, Safe Parking LA started operating at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Koreatown. Last year, a similar pilot program launched at United Methodist Church in South Los Angeles.
Bonin and Sale said they were working toward creating more safe parking programs on the Westside.
County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl welcomed the news.
“It is important to find partners like the VA who will create safe parking areas for the more than 8,500 Angelenos currently living in cars, vans and campers,” she said. “I hope many more similar lots can soon be identified. While we move as quickly as possible to expand housing options for men, women and families experiencing homelessness, it’s also very important to create interim solutions like safe parking lots.”
Bonin praised neighborhood leaders and community members in Brentwood and West L.A., who he said pushed for and supported the program. He said representatives of 35 neighborhood councils and homeowners groups on the Westside supported the VA program. Community leader and neighborhood council member Jay Handal was among them.
“As chair of the Community Task Force for the VA Safe Parking program, I applaud the VA, Councilman Bonin and the task force for the swift action to bring a program into the VA property to safely house those veterans living in their vehicles on the streets,” Handal said. “The task force will continue its work on Phase 2 — temporary shelter beds on the property for veterans sleeping in the streets and in the alleys.”
The VA is also seeking a master developer to build 1,200 units of permanent supportive housing and 700 units of transitional housing for homeless veterans at the site, and Los Angeles has approved Measure HHH funds to help build 110 units of housing in the first round of construction.