In the early 1990’s, the West LA VA Medical Center polled their inpatients and discovered that 25% of these veterans had no place to exit to when they were discharged – in other words, they were being discharged to homelessness.
In 1992, Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, a Marine veteran from World War II, formed “The Genesis Committee” to address this lack of housing for homeless veterans in Los Angeles County. This group became the first Board of Directors for U.S.VETS.
This original group included Col. Joseph Smith, the current Director of Military and Veterans Affairs for the County of Los Angeles; Maurice Kane, the past Director of the Carpenters Educational and Training Institute, Robert Jordan the former Southern California Regional Director for the DAV (Disabled American Veterans), Allan Jackson of TRW Aerospace, and David Farrar the founding partner of the law firm Brand, Farrar, Dziubla, Freilich & Kolstead.
An Honorary Board was also formed comprised of former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, actors Gregory Peck, Jimmy Stewart, Sidney Poitier, Jack Lemmon, Dennis Franz, and director Oliver Stone.
U.S.VETS inaugural site was Westside Residence Hall in Inglewood, Calif., which opened in 1993. Five veterans were brought into this facility in May of that year and the site has since grown to house 450 veterans. This was followed in 2000 by Villages at Cabrillo, a 26-acre base closure project in Long Beach, California, the largest transitional housing facility for homeless veterans in the country, which presently houses over 550 homeless veterans.
Over the next 18 years, more sites opened in Houston in 1997, in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Ariz., and Honolulu in 2001; and in Prescott, Arizona, Washington D.C., and at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California in 2003.
U.S.VETS locations have served more than 20,000 homeless veterans over the past 18 years, providing them with housing, employment, counseling and support services to help them build their skills and regain their independence. Sixty-four percent have made successful transitions into permanent housing and achievement of self-sufficiency. The organization also operates the highly successful Veterans in Progress work reentry programs at each site, which consistently average 80% employment and 65% successful transition to long-term or permanent housing. More than 1,000 veterans each year gain full-time employment through these programs. Special needs programs, tailored to individual needs, provide services to female veterans, non-custodial fathers, the chronically mentally ill, and Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. All these programs are collaborative efforts with local area providers, VA Medical Centers, and local government agencies; and are funded to provide long-term transitional housing, residential employment services, case management, substance abuse treatment, and outreach to homeless veterans.