The Los Angeles Veterans Service Center, now beginning its third year of operation, occupies three floors in the heart of the city at Third and Broadway. It is efficiently arranged and staffed. Its reception room is large, comfortably furnished and homey in atmosphere. The director is Arthur H. Tryon, former chief of unemployment relief for the city. The vast concentration of 18 public and private agencies is designed to provide complete service to enable the veteran to take his rightful place in the community. The present average load is 425 men per day.
But since the beginning of the year the veteran problems have become too heavy, even for this enterprising, cooperative city to solve. "We should put up a sign in every major railroad center,": said Director Tryon, "reading, 'Veterans, don't come to Los Angeles. We can't give you a job or an education or a roof over your head.' "
In Los Angeles, as in most other parts of the country, the average citizen is unaware of the acute unemployment problem, especially among veterans. In September 1946, the local office of the State Employment Service reported 43,684 veterans out of work compared with 27,247 other civilians. During the last three months, placements have dropped 45 percent. It is due to the efficiency of the Veterans Center that out of the present unemployment figure of 124,407, only 47,712 are veterans.
"Carrying out the conception of total warfare, we are mobilizing every resource to meet continuing veterans' unemployment and work problems," Said Robert H. Craig, retired merchant, who is president of the Citizens Committee of the Los Angeles Veterans Center. "But it is practically impossible to place unskilled men, especially the large unskilled Negro population which we acquired during the war.
"The Negro community in Los Angeles has grown from 67,000 in 1940 to 150,0 in the city proper and 50,000 more in the outlying areas. A job-development committee of leading businessmen is now being organized to tackle the problem.
"But we were very disappointed when we went to Washington to discuss the overall veterans' situation, only to have Congressmen tell us: 'Don't talk to us about veterans. We have more important things to do.' For in reality, the problems of the veteran today are more complex, more challenging and more difficult than they ever have been.
"And if we look ahead, what is going to happen to the 4,000,000 boys now in training. Los Angeles alone has 65,000 veterans in college and junior college, and 45,00 more in trade schools, high schools, etc."
What makes this situation all the more dangerous is the acute housing shortage in Los Angeles. It is known that 502 families are without shelter of any kind. How many more there are is anybody's guess.
The Los Angeles housing Authority estimates that 162,000 families are in need of homes of whom 6,000 are veterans. "But what can we do," said city officials, "when plasterers now get from $50 to $55 a day and don't do a decent day's work?" Some officials also confessed that Los Angeles would have to limit construction of public housing since it would only swell the immigration of destitute people from every section of the country.
Does our country realize the agony to which our veterans are exposed when they have neither a job nor a home? In Los Angeles, the non-service-connected mental cases are so numerous that the situation is tragic.
In the psychiatric division of the Los Angeles Superior Court, through which the majority of institutional commitments are handled, 57 percent of the men had no local Veterans Administration records, indicating that at least that many came from other states. Approximately 24,000 veterans in the Los Angeles area are receiving compensation for neuropsychiatric disabilities.
Although the Veterans administration has 1,884 psychiatric beds and the second-largest mental hygiene clinic in the country, there are not enough beds or services to handle the load of non-service-connected mental cases. As a result, the city is obliged to commit borderline cases to the state insane asylums, which are already 28 percent overcrowded. The Veterans Administration is obliged to dismiss mild cases to make room for more serious ones.
Frequently these men, after returning to civilian life, break down. One of them had just blown his head off. Trained personnel is sorely lacking because in none of the local medical schools are there any psychiatric training courses.
The situation would undoubtedly be worse were it not for the efficient guidance and counseling program for veterans set up by the local Board of Education in cooperation with the Veterans Service Center.
The main office at the City College campus has a staff of 14 psychologists, 28 counselors, 10 Veterans Administration advisers and 21 clerical assistants to keep detailed records.
The staff works in two shifts from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on a comprehensive program of service to the veteran. Thirty-three thousand men have used the service since it opened in August 1945.
The acid test of the service rendered by this guidance program is its remarkable success in placements of men both in positions of all kinds and in educational institutions.
IT WILL CONTINUE
The only limitation upon the work is the lack of jobs and of educational outlets. Although Los Angeles has the second-largest number of educational facilities of any city in our country, they all have waiting lists ranging from 100 to 2,000.
As vocational and educational guidance is one of the most important new developments in our efforts to strengthen the social structure, it would be a tragedy not to incorporate the skills, techniques and trained personnel of this remarkable counseling agency into the Los Angeles school system as a permanent service.
Because the people of Los Angeles have reason to feel that the Veterans Center and the counseling service have done a job of fundamental and enduring value, they have decided to continue the Veterans Service Center, probably as a permanent institution.
"The Veterans Centers throughout the country shouldn't close up," said Lynn Mowatt, executive secretary of the Welfare Federation of Los Angeles. "They are a demonstration of community organization for service to all the people by all the people.
COST OF CENTER
"Our center costs the Community Chest $300,000 a year, but I have yet to get a letter from anyone, anonymous or otherwise, criticizing this expenditure.
"Our 18 affiliated service centers in the local areas of Los Angeles County already combine civilian and veteran service. Since they are nearer to the people, perhaps the future is there rather than at this main office. But there is plenty of time to decide that before the veteran load eases up.
"Interest in the veteran is beginning to wane even here where we have one of the most acute situations in the whole country. 'The boys are home and the war is over' is a dangerous state of mind. In our case this indifference to a fundamental civic responsibility may be due to the fact that our Service Center has done such a magnificent job. Up to this time, things have moved almost too smoothly. But our people would soon wake up to the harsh realities with which a high percentage of veterans are still contending if the work of the Los Angeles Service Centers should be discontinued."