On San Vicente Boulevard in Brentwood, there’s a homeless encampment that’s hard to miss. While it’s not unusual to see makeshift shelters on the streets of just about every neighborhood in Los Angeles, this particular encampment is striking in its uniformity. More than two dozen large, identical tents stand in a line on the sidewalk, with matching American flags pinned to the outside.
“We call this ‘Veterans Row,’” said former Marine and combat medic Ryan Higgins, 45, on a recent afternoon as he sat strumming a guitar. Not coincidentally, the tents are right outside the walls of the West LA VA, a 388-acre, federally-owned compound offering health care and other services for military veterans. For years, homeless veterans have gathered and camped on the sidewalks around the campus. But “Veterans Row” only sprang up in the past few months. Residents there say it is designed to grab attention.
“We’re standing our ground as a peaceful protest,” said Dean Lee, an Army veteran. But against what, exactly? And why now?