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Outreach to Homeless Veterans in the Los Angeles County Jail: The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Story
National Jail Exchange

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Submitted for publication in the 2006 LJN Exchange by John Nakashima, Program Analyst, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and colleagues, Los Angeles, California.

Homeless personIncarcerated individuals represent a group with a high risk for homelessness (O’Flaherty, 1996). Released inmates may have few financial or social support resources. The stigma of a criminal record may also reduce their employability and ability to secure housing. Many incarcerated individuals suffer from mental health and substance abuse issues. These problems may hamper their ability to remain self-sufficient in the community.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System (VA GLAHS) partnered with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LASD) to provide assessment and pre-release planning for inmates in the downtown Los Angeles County Jail who were veterans. The hope was that, after leaving the jail, veterans would immediately start receiving VA care, including transitional housing, health care, mental health treatment, and vocational rehabilitation.

This article discusses the role of VA social work leaders in developing the jail outreach program. The authors use elements of Hasenfeld and Brock’s Political Economy Model (1991) to examine how the team took advantage of many fortunate political circumstances to overcome barriers associated with large institutions attempting to collaborate and innovate. The positive experience of VA GLAHS and Los Angeles County may serve as a model for other communities dealing with the problem of homelessness among released inmates.

Posted Wed, Jan 26 2011 3:32 PM by Connie Clem


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