Blaze Destroys Tiny Homes Built for Homeless Vets in West L.A.

The 8’-by-8’ shelters destroyed in the fire were meant to help homeless veterans transition to stable, permanent housing

Los Angeles veterans already struggling with homelessness were dealt another setback Friday when 11 tiny homes on the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus meant to help them transition into permanent housing were destroyed by a fire that began just after midnight, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.

The blaze, which also damaged four other tiny homes on the VA campus, was likely caused by lithium batteries that overheated while charging in one of the shelters, LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey told the Los Angeles Times.

The department estimates total damages at $160,000, including roughly $50,000 for the contents of the homes that were lost, but no injuries were reported on the 388-acre campus. Firefighters found 11 of the 8′-by-8′ shelters on fire when they arrived, and put out the blaze in about 15 minutes, Humphrey told the Times.

“As I was driving up, I saw the fire starting to spread to a bunch of the other tiny homes,” Rob Reynolds, a veteran and volunteer with the veteran advocacy group AMVETS, who said he got a call from a resident shortly after the fire started, told the paper.  “I didn’t realize how flammable these tiny homes are. I mean, these things were just involved. And it was just spreading from like one to the next very rapidly.”

Reynolds added, “The veterans should be inside buildings with sprinkler systems. This wouldn’t have happened [if they were in buildings with sprinklers]. They shouldn’t even be in tiny homes.”

The tiny home village grew from a federal class-action lawsuit against the Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System, which argued that the VA’s programs discriminated against homeless veterans with severe mental health disabilities that leave them unable to access medical and mental health services.

As part of a settlement in the suit, the Times reports, the VA promised to build 1,200 housing units on the campus for homeless veterans, but the project has missed several important milestones. 

There are 140 homes in the community, but several remain vacant due to housing shortages.

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