For seven months Eddie Sotelo trudged from office to office, filling out stacks of forms, pestering officials — all while he was living in a filthy VA shelter with 49 other homeless veterans.
His fighting in Afghanistan left the 36-year-old with post-traumatic stress disorder. Back home in Los Angeles, he became destitute and homeless — and eventually forced to wage a new battle, a bureaucratic slog to get housing that vets were promised.
Los Angeles has more homeless veterans than any city in America, according to a 2022 federal report, with nearly 4,000 men and women who served their country bedding down in homeless shelters, in old cars and RVs, under freeway underpasses. The fight to build supportive housing on the verdant, 388-acre West L.A. Department of Veterans Affairs campus — which was granted to the government specifically to house veterans — has spanned 12 years, two lawsuits, and two acts of Congress. By 2022, the VA was supposed to have provided 770 housing units; so far, it has provided only 233. (The VA said the original timeline “created unrealistic expectations.”)
Getting into one of those precious few units requires homeless veterans, many of whom have serious mental health and addiction challenges, to run a months-long gantlet of paperwork and office visits that would test anyone’s resolve.