The Veterans Administration (VA) Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System and the Veterans Park Conservancy (VPC) hosted an event on Monday to celebrate the completion of renovations made to the historic Women Veterans Rose Garden located on the National Veterans Park grounds.
The conservancy raised more than $1 million in private donations for the garden, which will be used in outdoor therapy for veterans housed on the VA grounds, according to the group. Future plans call for the renovation of an adjacent building to also be used for yoga, tai chi and other relaxation therapy classes.
The VPC has been active in the administration of veteran land since 1986.
"We helped get the Cranston Act passed, (where) property in the back near the ... was saved from being developed on," said Nancy Freedman, VPC board member and Brentwood Community Council chair, in an interview with Patch. "The people who have given money to this project are very proud of themselves and it's not money that would have gone anywhere else. It's not money that would have helped the homeless program, it's not money that would have helped in anything other than people interested in giving people an outdoor environment."
Longtime homeless veteran advocate Robert Rosebrock thinks the rose garden is a good start in the right direction.
"We should have the gardens throughout the whole property here, but our biggest concern is that we've got some 20,000 veterans who are homeless and we'd like to get them shelter," Rosebrock told Patch. "There's just a lot of things that we need to be working together on. I'd like to see more veterans service organizations involved."
Rosebrock, a columnist for Veterans Today and director of the Veterans Revolution, a on the corner of Wilshire and San Vicente boulevards, was recently involved in an ACLU lawsuit against the VA.
"When you have a name like a Veterans Healthcare System, it's not too inviting, (some homeless veterans) are trying to avoid the system. We need some name changes. More than just changing names, we need to live up to those names."
But the homeless veterans issue isn't the conservancy's mission, said Craig Parsons, outside communications consultant for the VPC.
"We share (concern for) the welfare of veterans, we're just taking on a different area and that's the health issue," Parsons told Patch. "Obviously we're sympathetic to the homeless issue, but that's not what we do."
Two veterans gave their testimonies about how the rehabilitation program helped them. One of them, Thomas Sells, left Vietnam 45 years ago to the week, he said.
"The first 20 years when I left Vietnam, I wandered the streets of the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area in an alcohol- and drug-induced stupor," Sells told the crowd of about 100 people. "The things that are available to me today were not available then."
Some of those things include yoga, acupuncture and tai chi, Sells said. Tai chi in particular, Sells said, has helped to heal his body inside and out.
"Healing is more about external wounds and a lot of our veterans … have many layers of internal wounds—trauma, PTSD—and these programs are the vehicle to provide a doorway in for them to look at their healing in a different way," said Sandy Robertson, VA patient-centered care coordinator, in an interview with Patch.
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