The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it's inching closer to breaking ground on a long-awaited $20 million project to facilitate treatment and support services for Los Angeles' chronically homeless veterans.
Building 209 at the West Los Angeles Medical Center campus on Wilshire Boulevard will be renovated to include 55 apartments for up to 65 veterans who will be provided on-site therapy and support services to help them transition to independent living.
Construction was expected to begin in June 2012, but the contract for renovations have not yet been awarded and project deadlines have expired, drawing criticism from U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman, who is seeking reelection this November. He wants the VA to set in stone a start date for the project.
In a letter issued to the department this week, Waxman said the delays have been "seemingly endless" and "intolerable."
The money was available starting October of last year through the Veterans Health Care Facilities Capital Improvement Act. The bidding process to find a contractor was initiated June 15, but hit a hiccup because one of the bidders "was unhappy," so the VA cancelled it on Sept. 17, said VA spokesman Dave Bayard.
Bayard said he didn't know why the bidder was displeased.
The VA estimated a construction contract will be awarded between late October and early November, and a groundbreaking ceremony has been tentatively scheduled for January 2013. The project could be completed by June 2014, with facilities ready for use by August 2014.
When questioned about the delays, Bayard said it wasn't unusual for a government construction project of this size.
"We've got a historic building in a historic area on private land," said Bayard. "This is a major building project. It's not an overnight deal."
Veterans currently have limited access to, or are prohibited from accessing about one-third of the sprawling VA campus, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged in a lawsuit filed last year. The land was deeded in 1888 a permanent home for veterans. The lawsuit seeks to prevent the federal government from renting some of it to private companies that do not provide health care-related services.
- Homeless Veterans Seek Speedier Resolution
- (Video) 'Born on the Fourth of July' Author Helps Efforts to Reclaim VA Grounds
- Veterans Garden Reopened as Rehabilitation Tool