In gentrifying Echo Park, the VA is forcing these homeless veterans to leave
Los Angeles Times
By GALE HOLLAND
MAR 31, 2019
“I know it’s weird for a 51-year old Naval Academy graduate to say, but it’s a scary day. I understand there are veterans here, but I haven’t met any yet. I knew I had it good. Now I really know I had it good.” Jeff Petrie
Jeff Petrie, 51, is one of the last residents to move out of the Billets, a housing program in Echo Park for homeless veterans. On Monday, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is closing the Billets for good. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)For six years, dozens of homeless veterans have recovered from trauma in nine cottages along a winding residential road in Echo Park. The Billets — military jargon for civilian quarters — has been a model.
The 72-bed program places as much as 70% of its chronically homeless veterans — male and female — in permanent housing, according to Volunteers of America, which operates the program. It’s based in a tranquil, leafy and gentrifying neighborhood of families and young professionals a short walk from a doughnut shop, a grocery store and multiple bus lines.
But on Monday, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is closing the Billets for good.
Volunteers of America officials said the VA gave no real reason for the decision, and Nikki T. Baker, department spokeswoman at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, declined a request to interview Director Ann Brown or another administrator.
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