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Most have of us have seen the unsettling images of American flags fastened to the outside of tents at a homeless encampment called “Veteran’s Row” in Los Angeles. It’s the type of photo that sticks with you in a haunting way. At least it did for me. It’s a stark reminder that tens of thousands of men and women who served our country sleep outside homeless every night. No one should be homeless, and most certainly, no veterans should not have access to adequate housing.
On July 4th, I decided to go visit Veterans Row to hand out socks and make new friends. It was overwhelming in several ways. First, I have walked into homeless camps all over the country. Homeless people are generally nice, but the homeless vets living outside the Veteran’s Administration in West Los Angeles were extremely welcoming.
Rob Reynolds’s passion is to help homeless veterans navigate services to get the help they need. Rob works for AMVETS-CA Post 2, but the two times I visited, Rob was not like any social worker I have seen. Both a veteran and formerly homeless, Rob understands better than most what his brothers and sisters are going through and what they need to get out of homelessness.
This is a powerful interview. I didn’t know any of the backstories on Veterans Row, and to be honest, I am still learning. Rob is extremely knowledgeable, and he is working to influence positive change. This video was not planned. After talking a little to Rob, I felt what he was telling me needed to be heard by as many people as possible, so I asked him to go on camera. Invisible People will be doing more to help tell this story in the near future.
Bureaucracy kills. I know of no other place that screams of bureaucracy than Veteran’s Row, which sits outside of the Veteran’s Administration’s approximately 400 acres of land. Granted to the United States Government in 1887 by Arcadia Bandini de Baker to house wounded veterans, the land and rundown buildings have been through decades of controversy.
From LA Magazine:
Over the decades, the site fell into neglect while VA officials opened up the land to commercial and non-profit use. In 2013, a federal judge ruled that the VA had misused the area by allowing non-veteran related tenants on the land, including the laundry facility for Marriott Hotels, production set storage for 20th Century Fox, and a local soccer club. Brentwood School, a $40,000-a-year K-12 private school, was faulted for running a 20-acre athletic complex on the property.
These problems persisted years later. A 2018 federal audit found that more than 60 percent of the campus’s land-use agreements were illegal or improper, citing a dog park, Red Cross offices, a Shakespeare festival, and a parrot sanctuary. That same year, an operator of a parking lot located on the property pleaded guilty to bribing a VA official with nearly $300,000 as he pocketed $11 million in unreported revenues.