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Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Office forces a dozen veterans to leave Nipomo recovery center

legacy village
Posted at 6:38 PM, May 01, 2023

Local organizations are stepping in to help 12 veterans who were displaced from the Legacy Village recovery center in Nipomo.

David Oliver, Veteran's Experience Coordinator at Legacy Village, says whenever a local veteran is in need of recovery, support or shelter, there is a long authorization process involving Veterans Affairs.

The recovery center has been bypassing that process, and whenever there is availability at Legacy Village, Oliver says he and his team work to get veterans into their center as soon as possible, instead of waiting for approval.

As a result, last Friday, the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Office notified Legacy Village and the 12 veterans who had been staying there that they would have to leave immediately or the center would be shut down.

"I was just at Legacy for 65 days, just barely over two months. When we got that news that we had to leave, it was just crazy," said veteran Larry Rose.

"I quit my job to go to Legacy," said veteran Alexander Milholland. "I had an amazing job, loved it, but I knew that I needed help. I get there, and I was only there for four days, and we get booted out."

Following their displacement from the center, both the Band of Brothers and the Santa Maria Elks Lodge's veterans committee took action.

"We looked at our availability here in the home to put up a few of these vets. We have our emergency beds down in the basement for two, but we quickly thought about turning our sunroom into a makeshift overflow," said Steven Baird, Co-President of the Band of Brothers.

"We got some mattresses, bedding, shampoo, soap," added Tim Reynolds, Veterans Committee Chairman at the Santa Maria Elks Lodge.

While Camp Flores, the Band of Brothers' transitional home in Santa Maria, is a sober, safe environment for veterans, those we spoke to say they hope the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Office ultimately allows them to return to Legacy Village.

"I was well on my way to putting pieces of my life back together after being homeless for two-plus years," said veteran Brian Clark.

"They have been feeding us, giving us a roof over our head, so they have been great to us. The only challenge is that we don’t have board-certified therapists, psychiatrists, and all the other things that go along with dual-diagnosis mental disorders with substance abuse," added Joe Franceschi.

Meanwhile, Oliver and the two groups that have stepped in to help say they would like to see the sometimes months-long VA authorization process get streamlined.

"The veterans who come forward with their problems, their substance abuse disorders, it should be treated like an emergency, like a broken arm. They should be able to get treatment immediately," Oliver said.

"The situation they are involved in, I don’t think it is right," Reynolds said. "It needs to be fixed. It is another red tape issue with the federal government."

"We need to come up with a better plan going forward," Baird added. "There needs to be something in place to get this situation under control because there will be many more that follow."

Baird says they have also been working with the VA office in Santa Maria to explore other possible solutions, and he says Band of Brothers is considering writing a letter to the White House to let them know about the situation and ask for help finding a resolution.

KSBY News reached out to the Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Department but did not hear back.