first_img 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! WASHINGTON — A bill by Rep. Brad Sherman to ensure that a proposed San Fernando Valley facility for homeless veterans treats only former military personnel is drawing concern from local activists and developers. The bill would force the Department of Veterans Affairs to toss a pending contract with a Los Angeles nonprofit agency and open bidding for the housing and rehabilitation facility at the Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center in North Hills. Sherman and neighborhood activists say the move is needed because they worry that the program under the New Directions nonprofit will allow nonveteran homeless people access to the center. But with VA Secretary Jim Nicholson set to sign a 75-year lease with New Directions as early as Monday, organizers said Sherman’s bill threatens to block help for more than 24,000 homeless and disabled former service members in Los Angeles. “We’ve really been broadsided,” said Toni Reinis, executive director of New Directions. “Why (Sherman) doesn’t want housing for the most disabled veterans who are in critical need of housing is beyond my imagination.” Sherman’s measure — the Homeless Veterans Housing at Sepulveda Ambulatory Care Center Promotion Act — passed the House Veterans Affairs Committee unanimously by voice vote. It now could head to the House floor, but it remains unclear how much support it will get. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Van Nuys, whose district once included the center, remained noncommittal about the bill’s passage. He has not co-sponsored the measure and neither of California’s senators has introduced an identical measure, which Sherman would need to move the bill into law. At issue is the future of the 147-unit VA Sepulveda center and how it is used. Sherman, City Councilman Greig Smith and community activists contend that original plans promised that only veterans would be treated on the sober-living campus. They say New Directions switched gears, however, when it accepted federal housing authority funding that now prevents the group from barring nonvets and also from restricting alcohol. Sherman said he believes a new bidding process is the only answer. New Directions’ contract was not competitively bid. “If the VA opens this up to bidding,” he said, “they will get a much better project.” The VA did not return phone calls seeking comment. U.S. Vets, a Los Angeles group that has been cited as a possible alternative to run the VA home, also did not return a request for comment. Officials with New Directions said they have been horrified by the lawmaker’s depiction of their organization. Earlier this year, Sherman painted the possibility of “keggers on a Saturday afternoon” at the facility, and more recently alleged that New Directions “proposes to allow free use of alcohol.” Reinis and Dora Leong Gallo, director of the development group Community of Friends, which has partnered with New Directions to build the facility, said the groups are just following the laws that come with the use of federal funds. While fair housing laws don’t permit the group to restrict the facility to veterans, it will be “veterans preference.” With only 147 units and thousands of homeless veterans in the region, Reinis said she doesn’t understand concern that the program will be opened to the general public. “The line will be from Sepulveda over the hill to West L.A. waiting for housing,” she said. “We have been in business for 15 years and 100 percent of the people we serve are veterans.” Sherman and Smith said they have been most troubled bget those terms in writing. — Lisa Friedman, (202) [email protected]last_img

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