“Welcome to your New Home!” read a greeting card displayed on an end table in a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment unit.
The apartment was one of nearly 60 units inside Building 207, a new residence for senior veterans on the sprawling West Los Angeles VA campus. The building recently opened as part of a large and multifaceted effort to provide affordable, subsidized housing to at-risk veterans.
Elected officials, nonprofit leaders, military veterans and advocates as well as members of the media gathered at the VA on Feb. 28 for the grand opening of the building.
Southern California housing developer Thomas Safran and Associates won a competitive bid to develop the affordable housing residence on the West L.A. VA. The organization spent $32 million on the project, which involved refurbishing an 80-year-old building on the VA and transforming it into a desirable housing complex for senior veterans.
The three-story building has 59 units of housing: six one-bedroom apartments and 53 studios. On the first floor, there’s a common room with computers, television, pool table, and a piano. Amenities include laundry facilities and a gym.
Onsite mental health and case management services will be offered to the veterans living at the facility, said Stephen Peck, president and CEO of U.S. Vets, the nation’s largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services for at-risk and homeless veterans and families.
“The beauty of this campus is we’re right up the street from the hospital,” Peck said, referring to the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center.
At the time of Building 207’s opening, nine apartment units were occupied by veterans. The remainder had not yet been filled.
Glistening floors, new kitchen countertops, fully equipped bathrooms–with fresh dispensers of toothpaste by the sink–welcome each of the veterans when they move into their fully furnished apartments. In a one-bedroom unit toured by a media group, a greeting card taped to the refrigerator read, “Dear Veteran, Thank you for your service. Hope you have a great day. God bless you.”
While Thomas Safran and Associates, the Veterans Collective and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles have worked to make the apartments affordable, tenants are required to pay 30% of whatever income they have toward rent.
The apartments are painted fresh coats of white. Sunlight pours in from large windows looking out onto the far-reaching VA campus, where the development company has broken ground on three additional permanent supportive housing complexes toward the goal of eventually offering more than 1,200 housing units on the 70-acre VA campus near Westwood.
“The apartment itself represents the present and the view outside represents the future,” Parisa Roshan, senior project manager at Thomas Safran and Associates said, providing a tour of Building 207 on a recent afternoon. “We are trying to create a beautiful home that veterans deserve.”
While forthcoming housing projects will not be age restricted, the immediate priority at Building 207 was providing housing opportunities for seniors over the age of 62.
“What we realize is senior veterans are the fastest-growing homeless population, and we wanted to make sure to meet their urgent needs more quickly,” Roshan said.
Those who drove by the VA around San Vicente Boulevard during the pandemic might have seen the growing number of encampments surrounding the campus. Indeed, there are an estimated 4,000 homeless veterans in Los Angeles County, according to published reports. For that reason, there was tremendous urgency surrounding the completion of the project.
The media tour of the building was followed by a tented ribbon-cutting ceremony outside the housing complex. Local leaders and veteran advocates in attendance included City Councilmember Traci Park and representatives from the offices of Congressmen Brad Sherman and Ted Lieu. Steve Braverman, director of VA Greater Los Angeles health care, also spoke. A flag ceremony kicked off the festivities, and food was served while speakers shared words about the significance of the grand opening.
According to The Veterans Collective, a partnership comprised of Century Housing, Thomas Safran and Associates and U.S. Vets, the launch of Building 207 marked “a major step in the construction of the country’s largest supportive housing development for veterans and families.” The project, Roshan said, “will fundamentally change the world of homeless services for veterans.”