After receiving a high number of calls for help from local veterans during 2020, the American Legion Post 13 introduced the Veterans Assistance Program (VAP) — a program designed to help callers by providing them with store-specific gift cards for groceries, general merchandise and fuel for qualified veterans.
With the current second major wave of the coronavirus spread, many organizations such as Post 13 are prepared to assist local veterans who may be finding themselves in similar situations affected by the pandemic as they did in 2020.
When the Legion first began experiencing high call volumes asking for help during 2020, the majority of calls consisted of veterans seeking immediate assistance for food, a common basic need set forth by homelessness or current economic circumstances.
Last year when the city of Pasadena released the 2020 homeless count, it informed that a slight increase in number of veterans experiencing homelessness had gone up from 32 veterans in 2019 to 38 veterans in 2020.
Although Pasadena has previously reported relatively low numbers of veterans living on the streets we have yet to learn what kind of impact the pandemic may have had on the number of veterans in need of shelter for the 2021 homeless count report.
This year, the homeless count in Pasadena has been postponed until Feb. 22 due to the high concern of recent spikes of Covid cases and the rapid spread of Omicron in Los Angeles County causing challenges on staffing and volunteer availability.
The City of Pasadena recommended on its 2020 homeless count report that real change in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness will mainly depend on “strengthening partnerships with Veterans Affairs programs and HUD to ensure adequate staffing is available and maximum utilization of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers, regardless of barriers such as military discharge or chronic homelessness status.”
During the same year in 2020, outside along the side of the Veterans Affairs (VA) building in Los Angeles, veterans in need of safe housing set a tent city — aka Veterans Row — as a form of protest causing government officials to act on the homeless crisis exacerbated by the pandemic in the local veteran community.
The encampment was recently visited by Denis McDonough, Secretary of Veterans Affairs, who committed to eliminating Veterans Row and house another 500 veterans in Los Angeles.
Earlier this month per the Los Angeles Times, the VA followed through on their commitment and exceeded their goal by housing over 600 veterans in the L.A. area during the last quarter of 2021. Along with this, most of the people living on Veterans Row are now residing on the sanctioned campsite on the VA grounds where they have food, toilets and services.
“With a sincere thank you to our community, we have gift cards for groceries, fuel, and general stores such as Target still available. The program aims to distribute two to four $25 – $50 gift cards per month, to distribute at least twenty-five gift cards per fiscal year, which runs from July to June.” informed U.S. Army Veteran Ariel Bailey.
Post 13 legion members want local veterans in their community to know they are available to provide gift cards to qualifying veterans when calling Post 13 at (626) 792-2158 and asking for help through the Veterans Assistance Program.