by Terry Richards

This is the Inaugural Issue and Story of Veterans News Service. And as it is being written just one day before Veterans Day of November 11, 2012, sadly, dozens of Veterans at the West Los Angeles VA Domiciliary’s Homeless Program are being evicted and some being sent to temporary housing in downtown Los Angele’s drug and alcohol infested “skid-row” because of  Administrative Protests by several non-profits who did not like the fact that only one non-profit got the award to  issue and get paid for issuing 940 HUD-VASH Housing Vouchers. So why can’t the VA issue these Vouchers until the Protests are resolved, they were issuing them before they decided it would be better to outsource the processing to non-profits??? As this story is being published, nobody has been able to give me that answer…

For the fiscal year 2011-2012 the Obama Administration asked the dominated Republican Congress for 10,000 HUD-VASH (VA Supportive Housing) Vouchers for the estimated 70,000 remaining homeless Veterans nationwide but only 7,000 Vouchers were actually appropriated by Congress.

In April of 2012 Resident Veteran-Patients in the Back-To-Productivity Track at the West Los Angeles (WLA) VA Medical Center’s Domiciliary (Dom) Building 217 were told by staff that there were 220 HUD-VASH vouchers dedicated to the two Domiciliaries and that all of those who were eligible to apply by virtue of having at least $400 income per month would receive a Voucher.

Then in June of 2012 the same Veteran-Patients were told by staff that due to a work-slowdown in the processing of the Vouchers due to fact that there were not enough VASH Caseworkers to handle the load that they should not expect to receive their Vouchers for a couple of months.

Then in approximately August of 2012 the same Veteran-Patients were told by the same staff that there was a “HOLD” on the remaining 180 Vouchers and they should start searching for regular private housing on their own without the Government’s help of VASH Vouchers. At the same time they were also told that the Salvation Army’s Community Integration Program (CIP) may be able to help them find affordable private housing and that the Salvation Army would pay their first, last and security deposit, and that a representative from that Program would soon be speaking to them. At about the same time the same Veteran-Patients were also advised by the same staff that there would be no further extensions for the sole purpose of waiting for their VASH Vouchers to be processed and for them to obtain an apartment as well as strongly considering to start looking for Grant Per Diem transitional housing as well, especially for those Veterans who did not have any income.

Then at a meeting at the Domiciliary with Congressman Waxman’s Office in about September of 2012, the same Veteran-Patients were told that VASH Vouchers will now be outsourced to a private non-profit which ultimately turned-out to be PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) according to one staff member at the Dom. But a source at PATH advised me in late Septembe that it will take about 3-months for them to gear-up and to issue those Vouchers. And when I asked how they will decide which homeless Veterans will get those Vouchers such as homeless Veterans living on the streets, or Veteran-Patients residing at the two Domiciliaries or other Veterans in other Transitional Housing Homeless Programs funded by the VA known as Grant Per Diems the source said she did not know???

Moroever, as of October 12, 2012, to the best of this Writer’s knowledge, 40 or less Domiciliary Resident Veteran-Patients in the two Domiciliary Buildings 214 and 217 received Vouchers and obtained housing.

Then on October 31, 2012, in a phone conversation I had with Rachel Zaiden an Aid for Congressman Henry Waxman’s Office in Los Angeles, Zaiden told me that all the remaining VASH Vouchers for fiscal year 2011-2012 had been issued to Homeless Veterans in Los Angeles??? But when I asked Zaiden if she could give me an accounting of which homeless Veterans were issued these Vouchers such as Veterans living on the street or some of the estimated 3200 Veterans living at Grant Per Diems Zaiden said she only knew what Jonathan Castillo, the Assistant Director of the WLA VA’s Vash Program had told her, and that was not one of those things…

Immediately after my conversation with Zaiden I texted 10-Veteran-Patients I know that are still living at said Domiciliary to apprise them of the news I learned from Zaiden. In just a matter of minutes I received two phone calls apprising me that Veterans in at least Building 217 who have been in this Domiciliary for 7-months or more were being given 2-weeks Notice to get-out and that they have to find on their own regular priced private housing or a Grant Per Diem that will accept them…

In addition to this news certainly being very disturbing to those Veterans given Notice To Vacate, it is also disturbing to me… It is disturbing to me even though I was one of the lucky ones who did get a Voucher and moved into an Apartment on October 06, 2012. It is disturbing to me also because I did in fact recently spend close to 7-months on the Productivity Track on the third floor and have personally seen and experienced the unlawful and unethical practices that pervades the VA and this Domiciliary every single day in the way Veteran-Patients are treated by certain staff members… And as a Veterans Rights Advocate since 1990, I am not going to leave any of my Fellow Veterans “behind” without fighting for them to also get their VASH Vouchers or other affordable low-cost housing just because I have obtained VASH housing for myself in which my rent is only 30% of my income…

So based upon the information by Zaiden, it appears that the Veteran-Patients in the West Los Angeles VA Domiciliary Homeless Programs were lied to by staff who were probably ordered to lie by their superiors… And aside from being lied to and building false hopes in the minds of those Veterans that they would surely get their VASH Voucher as long as they had more than $400 income because there were 220 Vouchers dedicated to the 2-Domiciliaries, those Veterans being evicted will probably not have an opportunity for permanent housing this year or probably even next year unless they happen to be randomly selected in the VASH process because of the limited number of Vouchers that awarded Los Angeles County each year for the estimated 3200 Homeless Veterans in Transitional Housing Grant Per Diems and the 2-Domiciliaries and the 8100 homeless Veterans living on the Streets, and the fact that a source close to the VA Vash Program advised me that VASH Vouchers are not dedicated to any VA or Grant Per Diem homeless Veterans Programs. So that is just one more lie told to Veterans of said Productivity Track.

Then on November 02, 2012, Lisa Pinto, Chief of Staff called me and told me something completely different from what Zaiden told me. What Pinto told was that 940 NEW VASH VOUCHERS for Los Angeles County had been appropriated by Congress and have been available since October 01, 2012 but that PATH (People Assisting The Homeless) who was the only non-profit Awarded the contract to Administrate and issue these Vouchers for 2012 and 2013 in that the VA felt an outside agency like PATH could do a better and more expedient job in issuing the Vouchers than VA Caseworkers but that PATH was having problems Administering the Vouchers (starting-up) but they won’t say why “which is very disconcerting to the Congressman” Pinto went on to say. My response to Pinto was thatwhy PATH won’t they say why they are having problem is not only disconcerting to me it is totally outrageous and unacceptable

I also advised Pinto that Veterans being evicted and being given only 2-weeks Notice to Vacate while 940 VASH Vouchers are available is also totally outrageous and unacceptable to me. Pinto said she would call the Chief of the Domiciliary to find out what was going-on and get back to me…

While waiting for Pinto to get back to me, on Saturday November 03, 2012 I wrote the following message to Jeremy Sidell, Chief Development and Communications Officer for PATH.

— On Sat, 11/3/12, TERRY RICHARDS <vetsjustice@yahoo.com> wrote:

From: TERRY RICHARDS <vetsjustice@yahoo.com> Subject: 940 Homeless Veterans awaiting the processing of 940 VASH HOUSING VOUCHERS you have… To: “jeremys@epath.org” <jeremys@epath.org> Cc: “rodolfos@epath.org” <rodolfos@epath.org>, johnm@epath.org, “elizabethja@epath.org” <elizabethja@epath.org>, “tessam@epath.org” <tessam@epath.org>, “path@epath.org” <path@epath.org>, “lis.pinto@waxman.house.gov” <lis.pinto@waxman.house.gov>, “rachel.zaiden@waxman.house.gov” <rachel.zaiden@waxman.house.gov>, “Joseph Halper” <joe1263@aol.com> Date: Saturday, November 3, 2012, 2:02 PM

Subject: 940 Homeless Veterans awaiting the processing of 940 VASH HOUSING VOUCHERS you have…

TO: Jeremy Sidell, PATH Media Contact for PATH (People Assisting the Homeless, et al…

Dear Jeremy, et al:

Lisa Pinto of Congressman Waxman’s Office advised me today that you are in possession of 940 VASH VOUCHERS since Oct 01, 2012 and that you are having some kind of problem starting the process. Could you please advise me of what the hold-up is so 940 homeless Veterans do not have to go homeless any longer than necessary. You should duly note that as we speak that dozens of Veteran-Patients at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center Domiciliary Homeless Veterans Program have just been given 2-weeks Notice to Vacate and find regular or Grant Per Diem housing on their own if they can. Pinto also advised me that you were the only non-profit granted this contract so you are the sole provider of VASH VOUCHERS for Los Angeles County. While I appreciate the help you have given me with my security deposit for my own VASH HOUSING recently as an individual, and all the good things you have done for the homeless throughout the years, speaking as a Nationally Recognized Veterans Rights Advocate for 24-years this delay is outrageous and unacceptable to me, and Pinto said it was unacceptable to the Congressman as well. Please tell me and the Congressman how we can help to expedite your immediate gearing-up to start issuing the Housing Vouchers to homeless Veterans. Please respond by e-mail or call me on my cell which is listed below by 5pm Tuesday, November 06, 2012 as I am planning to write a story about all of this, especially about the Veterans being evicted and I need an ending to the story. Hopefully it will be a happy ending with a near future date of when you plan on starting to issue the Vouchers… As a matter of course, I always send copies of my stories to all major local and National News Media…

cc: Commissioner Joseph Halper, City of Los Angeles WLA Planning Commission.

_______________________________________________________________

Below is Jeremy Sidell’s response to my above e-mail and I tend to believe his story:

WRITER’S NOTE: Remember Pinto, et al said PATH would not tell anyone why they could not issue the Vouchers… Yet, Sidell told me!!! Three different stories. Can’t anyone besides Sidell tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help them God the very first time time they tell the story???

— On Sat, 11/3/12, Jeremy Sidell <jeremys@ePath.org> wrote:

From: Jeremy Sidell <jeremys@ePath.org> Subject: RE: 940 Homeless Veterans awaiting the processing of 940 VASH HOUSING VOUCHERS you have… To: “TERRY RICHARDS” <vetsjustice@yahoo.com> Cc: “Rodolfo Salinas” <rodolfos@ePath.org>, “John Molloy” <johnm@ePath.org>, elizabethja@epath.org, “Tessa Madden” <tessam@ePath.org>, “PATH” <PATH@ePath.org>, lis.pinto@wc.house.gov.edgekey.net, rachel.zaiden@wc.house.gov.edgekey.net, “Joseph Halper” <joe1263@aol.com> Date: Saturday, November 3, 2012, 6:28 PM <!–

Dear Mr. Richards,

Thank you for your note. Unfortunately, there seems to be some misinformation about the voucher program. I hope this e-mail can clear things up.

Yes, PATH was initially awarded the contract to administer the VASH vouchers. Unfortunately, a protest was filed. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) must now rule on the whether the protests are valid or invalid before the VA can proceed with PATH as the contractor for the program. We are not currently in possession of any VASH vouchers as stated below.

While we are very disappointed at both the protest and our subsequent inability to begin the program, we are confident that the process will lead to the best outcomes for the homeless veterans we plan to serve. Please note that PATH is 100% ready and able to proceed with the administering the contract as soon as it is officially awarded and the protests have been remediated. Until that time, we do not have access to the vouchers nor are we able to administer them. We also have not been a provided a specific timeline on the protests process, but we expect and hope that it would be a matter of weeks, not months.

If you or the Congressman wish to meet with PATH concerning this matter, or the issue at the Medical Center Domiciliary, please let me know and we can arrange a time meet. Should you have any additional questions or concerns, please also let me know directly and we will do our best to provide whatever information we are able to. Thank you for your interest and support in this matter.

Regards,

__________________________________

Jeremy Sidell

Chief Development and Communications Officer PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) 340 North Madison Avenue Los Angeles , CA 90004 Ph: (323) 644-2231 Em:

jeremys@epath.org Web: www.epath.org FB: www.facebook.com/PATHLA Blog: www.povertyinsights.org

TO BE CONTINUED…

RELATED STORY BELOW WAS ORIGINALLY PART OF THIS STORY BUT WAS INCONGRUENT SO AUTOR MADE IT INTO 2-STORIES. THIS NEXT STORY IS A MUST READ…                                             

Why Eviction from HUD Housing is so high among homeless Veterans even after Programming.

https://vnsla.wordpress.com/2012/11/12/evictedhudvets/

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