Los Angeles County has the largest homeless population of veterans in the country and while many Americans are celebrating with outdoor barbeques, a Memorial Day Parade in L.A. and a trip to the beach, more than 6,000 homeless veterans are just trying to survive.
Actor/Producer Robert Malone from Huntsville, Alabama, who was injured while training to become a U.S. Navy Seal went back to school and studied film. He came to Hollywood, where he was successful, but then fell down on his luck. Malone was homeless for more than two years before he finally got help from Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which led him to Veteran Services in Los Angeles.
“This is where it all started and my handprints are the same size of John Wayne’s,” said Malone kneeling over the handprints and footprints in concrete in front of the Chinese Theater, Hollywood. “I lost track of time and finally got rescued by LAHSA with the VA Voucher program.”
Malone admitted that most veterans are too proud to seek help.
“I’m here to spread the message that there is hope. It’s a huge problem and there’s at least four or five guys committing suicide every day. There is so much stress on homeless people, they need housing, shelter, food and they need resources,” he explained.
U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki made the commitment at a meeting with Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, and Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky recently in Washington, D.C.
Shinseki told the officials that Los Angeles County would get more housing vouchers and medical outreach workers as well as a dedicated homeless services center at the Veterans Affairs facility in West Los Angeles.
Feinstein said she will hold Shinseki to his commitment, calling the high number of homeless veterans in Los Angeles a "disgrace and a chronic problem that we can do something about."
Waxman said Shinseki committed to end homelessness by 2015 and "showed a sincere desire to turn the crisis of veteran homelessness in Los Angeles around."
Calling the secretary's commitment "huge" and "unprecedented," Yaroslavsky said it would allow the county to "treat 10 times as many homeless vets in the next two years than we did over the last two."
Every two years, the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority leads the Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The 2013 Homeless Count was the largest and most comprehensive in the history of LA County, with more than 5,000 volunteers canvassing 4,000 square miles from January 29th to January 31st. Data collected from the count is critical to addressing the complexities of homelessness and planning how to best invest public resources.
Homelessness in Los Angeles increased to 39,463 men, women and children, or 0 .1 percent in the street and shelter count before including homeless people who would not have been seen in the street or shelter count (identified as “Hidden Homeless” ). When estimates for homeless people not counted during the street and shelter count are included in the estimates, the number increases to 57,737 people, a 15.0 Percent increase (7,523 people) when compared to the 50,214 counted in 2011 for Los Angeles County.
“If you’re homeless you need to go online, call people who are there to help you,” said Malone, who will be featured in an upcoming documentary on Homelessness in Los Angeles. “Don’t be afraid, don’t depressed, don’t commit suicide. Please guys if you don’t ask for help you can’t get helped, that’s the bottomline.”
If you’re homeless visit: www.LAHSA.org or http://lahsa.org/homelessnow.asp. Or dial: 2-1-1 from any touchtone phone or (800) 339-6993. 211 LA County is dedicated to providing an easy-to-use, caring, professional source of guidance, advocacy and 24/7 access to a comprehensive range of human services to people anywhere in Los Angeles County.