The answer to veterans homelessness could be one of LA’s most expensive neighborhoods

The first time John Follmer met a Purple Heart vet living on the streets after trying — and failing — to get VA benefits, it surprised him.

Not anymore.

Follmer has been doing homelessness outreach with LA’s Veteran Peer Access Network for three years. His goal is to help vets on the street tap into the array of economic, health and housing benefits they’ve earned. Follmer’s seen many vets — including two more Purple Heart recipients — who have been wrongly turned away from the Department of Veterans Affairs or don’t believe they’re eligible.

“It’s not the lack of resources. It’s the abundance of discouragement,” says Follmer.

Which might explain LA in a nutshell. Los Angeles has the largest number of homeless veterans, nearly 4,000 according to the annual count. LA also has a unique asset to help them: A 387-acre facility on some of the country’s most expensive real estate: Brentwood, in West Los Angeles. The sprawling campus was donated as a home for Civil War veterans in 1887. In this century veterans groups have sued the VA for leasing parts of the campus out for things that had nothing to do with vets, like UCLA’s baseball stadium, the private Brentwood School and other deals, some of which turned out to be criminal.

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