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Tennis courts or homeless vets? ACLU calls for investigation of VA land use

Claiming that the federal Department of Veterans Affairs in Los Angeles is not doing enough to help homeless veterans, the ACLU of Southern California is calling for an investigation into the VA's stewardship of its sprawling Westside campus, which includes leasing portions of land for use as private tennis courts.

In letters to VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki, the U.S. Department of Justice and California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, the ACLU's managing attorney, Peter J. Eliasberg, claimed that the VA was failing to abide by the terms of a 1888 deed that created the West Los Angeles veterans campus.

"The VA has allowed portions of those lands to be leased to a private school for use as tennis courts and other portions of VA property to be leased for use as theaters instead of housing our homeless veterans, who are in desperate need of housing," the ACLU said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

The VA has defended its decision to lease campus lands to private organizations, saying the agreements generate funds for the care of former service members.

In his letter to officials, however, Eliasberg said the practice was inconsistent with the government's legal obligation and had "enormous human costs."

The ACLU cited figures from the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority stating that in 2009 Los Angeles County (excluding Long Beach and Glendale) had about 42,700 homeless individuals. Veterans accounted for about 6,500 of them.

It was in the late 1880s that U.S. Sen. John P. Jones of Nevada -- a co-founder of Santa Monica -- and Arcadia B. de Baker donated hundreds of acres of land to be used in perpetuity as a home for disabled soldiers.

Veterans activists have complained for years that the federal government has been ignoring the needs of homeless veterans even as it leases portions of the campus to private schools, corporations and others for activities unrelated to the care of veterans.

Last month, Richard Fox, an attorney representing a charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation, wrote to Shinseki asserting that the VA's leasing practices appeared inconsistent with the terms of the charitable donation. In its letter, the ACLU agreed with Fox.

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-- Martha Groves

 
Comments () | Archives (9)

Must be the private high school in brentwood that's getting the land for tennis courts & more.

how many of these aclu are veterans? inquiring minds want to know! my guess is NONE!

I have an idea open up the ACLU offices so the homeless can live there! Oh I see, the ACLU doesn't want to be bothered by the homeless.

It is about time attention was turned to this issue. The VA has abused it's land and responsibilities, and for years the authorities have ignored the VA. FINALLY the spotlight shines on this problem.

The problem with VA provided "HOUSING" for the homeless veterans is that the VA has PRISON-LIKE RULES & ends up kicking 95% of the homeless veterans back to the streets for RIDICULOUS RULES NO ONE COULD FOLLOW!

Not ONE VETERAN should be homeless!

It is a sleight of hand when the VA and its administrators say that the land leased to non-veteran agencies raises money for veterans. Various veterans groups have requested from VA the amount of income raised for veterans services. The VA will not release the information. Some vets claim the VA has leased some land for as low as $1.00 a year, which is a steal and not a lease. The land is worth billions, so how much are the renters truly paying?

After years of veterans struggling to save this land and asking many different agencies for assistance, only the aclu has stepped up. Many of us, both conservative and liberal, involved in this issue welcome the aclu. And many of us are--to answer you inquiry--combat veterans. Daniel

Veterans pray Donald Trump does not learn how easy it is to steal VA land. Then, all veterans are lost.


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