Fighting Homelessness with Butterflies in LA
A press release was issued on May 6 announcing that the mayor of Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti, has spearheaded an initiative to house women veterans in a townhome project code-named “Blue Butterfly”. Alright, that’s not really a codename, it’s just the name of the of neighborhood. The grand opening of the Blue Butterfly Village in San Pedro was celebrated on May 6, 2015. Recently appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert McDonald also attended the celebration, which comes amidst of wave of interest in ending veteran homelessness tracing all the way back to the Obama administration.
The Homes are Veterans As Well
From the press release, “The Blue Butterfly units were originally homes for Navy personnel. Today, they have been transformed into beautiful homes, equipped with a park, social services, and drought-resistant gardens. This facility establishes a new national model: renovate unused military housing and put it to good use for our country’s veterans.” Taking existing military housing that is not being used and renovating it for use by veterans is a smart and effective way to provide homes to veterans without costing taxpayers as much.
Homeless Female Veterans Need Help Too
In fact, many homeless female veterans are in tougher circumstances and have been through worse than their male counterparts. Many homeless female veterans are trying to take care of children, and many are dealing with issues related to being victims of sexual abuse, often during their military service. From Mayor Garcetti, “The contributions of our servicewomen do not end when they take off their uniform, and neither do our obligations to honor their service when they return, and we know that 73% of our homeless women veterans don’t have shelter at night. And, tragically, 60% of all women veterans in L.A. County suffered some form of sexual violence while serving in our country’s military. As mayor, I will ensure Los Angeles will not ignore the needs of our most vulnerable populations.”
About the Blue Butterfly Village
The Blue Butterfly Village contains 76 two-bedroom, single-family units, and the rent is subsidized. The set-up and size of the units make them perfect for little veteran families that are needing a place to live. But the Blue Butterfly is even more than a roof over their heads; the village offers support services and training opportunities to help these veterans achieve self-sufficiency even while still having to juggle the responsibility of raising their children. These services are provided because the end-goal is more than just providing housing to veterans in the short-run. The end-goal is to end veteran homelessness for now and forever, and the best way to do that is to give veterans the leg-up they need right now and give them the knowledge and tools they need to become self-sufficient in a reasonable time frame.
Homelessness in Los Angeles
Mayor Garcetti has vigorously pursued the goal of ending veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015. To that end, since January 1, 2014, Los Angeles has successfully housed 3,683 veterans that were previously homeless. The City has also pursued and obtained more federal resources for their work in housing veterans than any other city in the country. The campaign to end veteran homelessness has been the catalyst that has inspired great stories of innovation, compassion, and hard work across the country as people rally to make the dream a reality. Most of us are ready and willing to thank veterans for their service and sacrifice, but truly making a difference in the lives of those who have served us requires more than a thank-you and a handshake.
What You Can Do
The best thing you can do is to get involved where you live. No matter who you are or what you do, you have valuable resources that you can volunteer to make a difference in the lives of homeless veterans. Find out what your city or county is doing to end veteran homelessness, and find out what volunteer opportunities are available. Perhaps you can help in a more traditional way by volunteering at soup kitchens homeless shelter, or perhaps you can help in a unique way based on your skill set and resources. Consider offering a free class teaching something you know well. Whatever you decide to do, you can know that it will make a positive difference in the lives of veterans.