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Public Statements

Homeless Veterans Housing at Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center Promotion Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


HOMELESS VETERANS HOUSING AT SEPULVEDA AMBULATORY CARE CENTER PROMOTION ACT -- (House of Representatives - May 07, 2007)

Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and pass the bill (H.R. 1642) to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that, to the extent possible, an enhanced-use lease for a homeless housing project at the Department of Veterans Affairs facility known as the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center, located in North Hills, California, shall provide that such housing project shall be maintained as a sober living facility for veterans only, and for other purposes.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 2642. We all know that homelessness among veterans is a pervasive problem. Estimates are that there are 20,000 to 30,000 homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area alone and more than 200,000 probably on the streets of our entire Nation. Many of these homeless veterans also have substance abuse problems.

My colleague and friend, Congressman Brad Sherman, has worked with veterans in the San Fernando Valley community to mobilize community support for veterans-only housing, a project that will use two buildings at the VA Sepulveda complex to provide housing and supportive services for homeless veterans with substance abuse problems.

The bill before you will ensure that the Sepulveda veterans facilities and resources are used for veterans only. It also provides that all qualified housing organizations receive the opportunity to compete for the homeless veterans housing project at Sepulveda. Most importantly, this bill directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure that, to the extent possible, an enhanced use lease for a homeless housing project at Sepulveda shall be maintained as a sober living facility for veterans only with adequate staffing and security.

Additionally, this bill will ensure that all qualified housing organizations receive the opportunity to present competing proposals to the VA for a homeless veterans project at the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center in North Hills, California.

Mr. Speaker, two worthy and good nonprofit organizations, New Directions, Incorporated, and their partner, A Community of Friends, made a proposal to local VA administrators and local elected officials and community representatives to enter into this lease with the VA for a veterans-only housing project for recovering substance abusers that would in fact be alcohol-free and would have adequate staffing and security. All the parties that were brought together by Mr. Sherman agreed to these commitments.

But just last summer, the nonprofits abandoned that proposal and sought enhanced-use lease to deliver a project that was substantially different than what everyone had agreed to earlier. They took these steps after discovering additional funding sources through Housing and Urban Development that it believes might be available for this project if it opens these facilities to residency by non-veterans and allows the use of alcohol.

Mr. Speaker, how can you begin to help homeless veterans who are trying to get their lives together, trying to recover from addictions to drugs and alcohol, but putting them in a facility that allows the very thing from which they are trying to recover? It does not make any sense.

This bill does not stop the Secretary of the VA from entering into a lease, but it does ensure that the Secretary conduct a diligent search to find a qualified organization with the experience, efficiency and funding sources to deliver a veterans-only, sober living facility and to enter into a lease with the organization best suited to deliver the projects.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support passage of H.R. 1642. I also ask for their continued support for our Nation's veterans. This bill is the least we can do to help ensure our homeless and recovering veterans have an environment that allows them to reach their goal, clean and sober.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 1 minute.

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the concerns that the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ginny Brown-Waite) raised. I think the concern should be directed to the VA Secretary who, if he had asked for a competition on proposals, wouldn't be negotiating with just one group.

I personally have talked to groups that say they would offer proposals which would guarantee all veterans and would guarantee sober living, and we are convinced it would not take 2 years, but could be done rather quickly.

I think Congressman Sherman can answer with much greater expertise and I would yield to him such time as he may consume.

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Mr. FILNER. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman, and like her, I commend the gentleman from California for his tireless work on an issue that rarely gets community support, and I am convinced, as he said I visited the area, that we will have an up-and-running homeless program for veterans with substance abuse in a very short time. It is a place where the VA is using its facilities, and it is a great opportunity for anybody who wants to help this issue.

So I thank the gentleman and I thank the gentlewoman.

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