The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VAGLAHS) campus in Brentwood, California, is providing a unique housing solution for homeless veterans during the coronavirus pandemic, a project that benefited from the ACHP’s blanket extension for use of expedited Section 106 reviews related to the emergency.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies that carry out, license, or assist projects that may affect historic properties to take into account such effects and provide the ACHP a reasonable opportunity to comment.
In response to the COVID-19 emergency, VAGLAHS identified a need to establish a temporary initiative at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center for homeless veterans. VAGLAHS established a pilot program—the Care, Treatment, and Rehabilitative Services Initiative—to provide homeless veterans a safe and stable place to reside during the COVID-19 pandemic while providing access to care, treatment, and rehabilitative services, as well as options for transitional or permanent housing. By allowing unsheltered homeless veterans to shelter on the VA campus, the success rate of transition to other existing programs, including transitional and permanent housing, has been more than 60 percent—a great success for a low-barrier, entry-level initiative.
The project, which began on two parking lots with 25 tents, grew rapidly, and VAGLHAS soon realized it needed to find a place to expand the capacity to 100 tents. VAGLHAS proposed that the new and consolidated initiative site be located on one acre at the Los Angeles National Veterans Park (Grand Lawn), which is a contributing element to the West Los Angeles VA Historic District. Since this project was in response to a critical need for vulnerable homeless veterans during a national and state emergency, VAGLAHS utilized the expedited Section 106 consultation procedures for emergency situations. VAGLAHS made a finding of no adverse effect for the project, and the California State Historic Preservation Officer concurred.
This successful project is serving as a model for local area governments that are now actively exploring potential sites for service-connected, sanctioned campgrounds, like the one established at the West Los Angeles VA Medical Center, to bring relief to those experiencing homelessness.
The ACHP has extended the time period for all federal agencies regarding undertakings that respond to emergencies and disaster declarations on the outbreak of COVID-19 to December 31, 2020.