First Lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Los Angeles Wednesday to join Mayor Eric Garcetti, other government officials and business leaders to discuss ways to help local veterans.
The United for Veterans Summit was organized by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and partners, which include USC Price School, the Federal Reserve Bank and the City of Los Angeles. About 20 percent of California’s veteran population lives in Los Angeles, and one in eight veterans who are homeless reside in Los Angele County.
The half-day summit was held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City.
Other attendees included: Maria Elena Durazo, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, L.A. County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO; Laura Zeilinger, Director of National Programs and Field Support, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness; Elise Buik, President and CEO of United Way of Greater Los Angeles; Stephen Peck, President and CEO, U.S. Vets; and Elizabeth Garrett, Provost, University of Southern California Price School of Public Policy
Speaking to a crowd of 900 business executives, politicians and community leaders, the first lady said the problems veterans face are difficult but solvable:
"If you work on the ground with landlords to find open apartments, with developers to build new housing, if you rally community groups and congregations and businesses around this issue, then this problem becomes imminently solvable," Obama said.
Mrs. Obama first announced the initiative, called the “Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness,” in June.
Garcetti said, “I am proud to announce I’ve joined forces with the President and the First Lady’s call to end veterans homelessness in our city by the end of 2015.”
One in three post-9/11 veterans is unemployed or underemployed, not making sustainable income levels. According to the most recent census, 11% of post-9/11 veterans in L.A. County were living at poverty levels
Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles has dropped 24 percent over the last two years, however, according to United Way President and CEO Elise Buik.
Buik told KPCC that is largely because of an increase in the number of federal housing vouchers given to veterans in L.A. And even though the problem of veteran homelessness in the city may seem intractable, Buik concurred with the first lady, saying that solving it is "do-able."