OP-ED: Getting homeless veterans off the streets is a victory for Downey

American Legion Post No. 723, before it was demolished earlier this month. Photo by Alex Dominguez

American Legion Post No. 723, before it was demolished earlier this month. Photo by Alex Dominguez

Everyone wants to help the homeless, just not in their backyard.

A proposal to build housing for low-income and homeless veterans fell under boisterous opposition this year, particularly by families concerned about its effect on property values.

This particular housing development is slated to be built at 11269 Garfield Ave., on property owned by L.A. County. The property is in Downey and abuts a South Gate neighborhood.

The lot previously was home to American Legion Post No. 723, which was demolished earlier this month to make room for the new apartments.

It’s unclear how many people will live at the new complex, but the property totals 2.24 acres, enough space to help a significant number of veterans and their families.

If these protests against affordable housing sound familiar, it’s because Downey has been through this before. In 2014, construction began on The View, a six-story, 50-unit low-income apartment complex in the heart of Downtown Downey.

The complaints were largely the same: low-income housing would negatively impact property values. They would become “projects.” There was belief that affordable housing was more appropriate for communities outside Downey, although no one was brave enough to say that out loud and statistics show that a significant number of Downey families live below the poverty line.

Four years later, the reality is that The View is one of Downey’s most architecturally beautiful structures. And thanks to on-site property management, The View is largely unassuming, the complex quiet and neatly maintained. (In fact, the only publicity The View has generated was positive, when residents held a barbecue for police officers and firefighters.)

This new development for distressed veterans is an example of Downey and L.A. County taking demonstrable action against a problem that has plagued our society far too long.

You can’t say, “I support veterans” and begin your next breath with, “But…”

You can’t claim to have empathy for veterans but on the condition your personal comfort is not impacted.

American Legion Post No. 723 operated for decades but in its final years was nothing more than a watering hole for aging vets in search of cheap beer.

According to a memorandum of understanding between L.A. County and Downey, at least 50% of the units will be set aside specifically for homeless veterans. To be clear, this is not a homeless shelter; it is permanent housing for U.S. veterans who are currently living on the streets or in transitional housing.

This is a victory for Downey and all of L.A. County, including South Gate.

News, OpinionEric Pierce