Veterans Hospital Renovation Will House Homeless Vets

Advocates say the renovation is long overdue

Disabled Vietnam veteran Jim Houston is known on the streets as the Ninja Cowboy.

"I’m still sleeping on the street and I risked my life for our country,” he said.

Houston receives medical care at the Veterans Administration Facility in West Los Angeles, but because he's unable to work, he panhandles to get by.

He's one of many veterans who feel the VA hasn't done enough to help him. His eyes fill with tears as he explains that only homeless vets really understand his plight.

“They love you because they know what you did," he said. "But who else does?”

Finally, help is on the way. Renovation is slated to being at the West LA campus to create temporary housing for 55 homeless veterans.

Vets, both women and men, will be allowed to stay in the facility for up to one year while they get training that may allow them to resume normal lives.

“And give them a chance, with a lot of support, and teach them how to live independently and take care of themselves,” said VA Mental Health Chief Bill Daniels.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit against the VA in 2011 in an effort to force the Administration to provide more housing for vets. The suit claims VA facilities were being wrongly used to allow outside businesses to use the campus.

“What they’re doing was entering into these land deals with no oversight or transparency," said ACLU Attorney David Sapp. "About one-third of the campus, when we filed the lawsuit, was closed to veterans.”

VA officials won't talk about the lawsuit. And the ACLU said while it's just a drop in the bucket, the renovation is a good start.

Jim Houston said he thinks it's too late for him.

“Ninja Cowboy says I love you all,” he said, as he resumed his daily travels on the streets of Los Angeles.

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