Progress made in Los Angeles, but no end to veteran homelessness in 2015
Even though 2015 was supposed to be the year Los Angeles ended homelessness among its military veterans, former Marine Clarence Moore can’t find a place to live.
Moore is among the 1,700 veterans in Los Angeles who still need housing — the largest number in the country. The prolific population of homeless veterans still on the streets has caused L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti to walk back his July 2014 pledge of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
But Garcetti says an end is in sight: the mayor's new promise is to reach "functional zero" by summer — meaning housing all existing homeless veterans and providing a system to house any new veterans who fall into homelessness within 30 days.
Connie Llanos, a spokesperson for the mayor, said Garcetti remains committed to achieving functional zero.
But Moore's story exemplifies L.A.'s challenge in reaching its 2015 goal.
He currently lives in transitional housing at the West Los Angeles veterans campus and can only move about in a motorized wheelchair. He has a government housing voucher but can’t find a landlord who will accept it, and offer him a lease.
He says searching for a place to live has “been very, very difficult. Especially when you’re handicapped.”
He served in the Marine Corps from 1968 to 1971. He deployed twice to Vietnam. And he used to have a job and a place to live.
But in March of 2015, Moore was hit by a car while crossing the street. When he woke up from a coma a month later, he’d lost both his job and his home.
Moore was bedridden in a hospital until May, and has been using a motorized wheelchair because he still needs more operations on his legs.
But that hasn’t stopped him from searching for an apartment.
He’s looked at apartments in Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Japantown, Koreatown, Pasadena, Highland Park, Glendale, and Santa Monica.
Moore has what’s known as VASH voucher, which the federal government issues to homeless veterans. The vouchers pay a set amount toward the veteran’s rent, but it’s often hard to persuade landlords to accept them.
His voucher is worth $1,320 per month.
Since getting his voucher about two and a half months ago, Moore says he’s seen about 30 apartments.
Most haven’t been accessible to the handicapped, and he often encounters long waiting lists for apartments. Even though Moore’s filled out lots of applications and paid application fees, he hasn’t even gotten one call back.
The number of vets in Los Angeles with housing vouchers, but who can’t find a place to live has gone up from 700 in August to over 1,000 today.
In L.A.’s tight rental market, with just a 3 percent vacancy rate, landlords can afford to be picky.
Some say the vouchers pay less than the market value for an apartment. Others just don’t want to deal with vouchers, and still others say it’s too big a risk to open their doors to a formerly homeless person.
That frustrates homeless advocates. They say if they could get enough landlords on board, they could actually end veteran homelessness.
Indeed, while other cities around the country have declared an end to veteran homelessness, the total number they’ve housed is often less than the number of vets housed in L.A. every month.
Christine Margiotta, director of the United Way Campaign’s Home For Good L.A. program says “over 330 vets” are being housed in Los Angeles each month.
“From our understanding that is a larger volume than any other city in the country, any other region in the country, and we should be incredibly proud of that.
Along with a tight rental market in L.A., another barrier has been a steady population of veterans falling into homelessness. While 4,300 were housed in Los Angeles in the past year, Margiotta says affordability issues in the city and county are causing new bouts of homelessness.
Llanos, however, says the number being housed every month should be able to overtake the number of those falling into homelessness by summer — despite the challenges of people like Clarence Moore.
Moore himself remains optimistic he’ll find a place to live before his voucher expires January 23rd.
It's still his best hope, he says, for finding a permanent home.