As the dawn of the war in Iraq approaches its seventh anniversary and the war in Afghanistan continues well past its eighth, Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles is striving to meet the needs of returning combat veterans as part of its new Veterans Initiative.
The problem which Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles seeks to address through its Veterans Initiative is one which is ongoing and pervasive. In the greater area of Los Angeles alone, there are 10,000 combat veterans currently living on city streets—many of whom are veterans of the war in Vietnam four decades ago. In addition to suffering permanent physical injuries and disabilities, a sizeable percentage of returning veterans have been impacted by mental disorders attributed to combat stress. It is estimated that approximately 70 percent of homeless veterans are affected by mental illness or problems related to substance abuse. Overall, it is estimated that 1 in 5 returning veterans suffers from symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression.
Within the past year, Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles has taken major steps in its service of homeless and returning combat veterans. With the help of a generous gift from the Rotary Club of Los Angeles, Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles completed the renovation of Rotary House—a 25,000 square foot facility in downtown Los Angeles—setting up 150 beds for transitional housing as well as classrooms and access to computers. Additionally, Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles completed renovations of a 1920’s era hotel in Hollywood for a project to target the needs of returning veterans suffering from severe trauma-induced psychological illness.
Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles is currently in the process of renovating 76 former United States Navy condo units to provide long-term housing solutions for veterans as well as veterans’ families in San Pedro, California. This project is by far the most costly of the three, as costs are expected to total $23 million—nearly 75 percent of the total cost of all three projects combined. Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles is accepting donations toward this and other projects at the Volunteers of America Greater Los Angeles website.