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A steady income doesn't guarantee you a life off the streets in Southern California

A steady income doesn't guarantee you a life off the streets in Southern California
A homeless encampment on 39th Street includes numerous tents below an overpass for the 110 Freeway in Los Angeles. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Your series of editorials on homelessness makes good points. Many homeless families have incomes and cannot find rentals using even half of their income for housing. Even if they find a place with monthly rental they can afford, there are barriers to move in, such as security deposits and other move-in costs.

I volunteer for a group in Huntington Beach called Off the Streets, which pays move-in costs and provides furniture for families moving into permanent housing. This group has compiled a database of rentals, and there are few in Southern California with rents under $1,000 a month.

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I personally have spoken with about 100 homeless families who have incomes. I can say with some authority that Southern California desperately needs more housing units that cost less than $1,000 per month. I wish I knew an easy solution.

Building dense housing in existing single-family neighborhoods won't work, but are there downtown areas that could offer smaller and cheaper housing? Section 8 vouchers help, but they are hard to obtain, and many landlords are reluctant to accept them. Is there a way to work with landlords to make these vouchers more effective?

Finally, there are building codes, zoning restrictions and prevailing wage requirements that make building new housing very expensive. Given the current homelessness crisis, is there a way to work with cities and labor unions to substantially reduce or eliminate these costs and restrictions?

Steve Murray, Huntington Beach

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To the editor: This housing issue could have a better ending. We voted to give the city more than $1 billion in 2016 to make it so. According to our controller's map, we citizens of Los Angeles own about 9,000 parcels of public land, much of it vacant or rentable.

We live in 2018. Many architects have designed pre-fabricated, green, beautiful housing for a fraction of the roughly $500,000 it costs to build a new unit. This is housing that can be assembled in days. Rather than tents and tarps, these new communities could be the pride of the neighborhood that no one would be ashamed to live in or walk by.

Or, if that's too much, one can get a high quality, spacious shed with windows for under $10,000, to say nothing of Eric Summers' "tiny houses" that were carted away. With communal facilities, showers, laundry, kitchens and support services, we could shelter many of L.A.'s homeless residents before next winter's rains.

Plus, our design could be a model for California and the nation, showcasing the green, sustainable, recyclable building that we need for resilience to the global warming we in Los Angeles are facing in our future. That is not going to stop. We can see that now.

So what's the hold up? Let's get going. Women and children first, please. Make us proud.

Sarah Starr, Los Angeles

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To the editor: As homelessness has exploded, the Los Angeles City Council has spent the past two years approving resolutions supporting President Trump's impeachment, requiring city contractors to disclose if working on Trump's proposed border wall, labeling Los Angeles a "city of sanctuary," taking legal action to oppose the cancellation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, ceasing business ties with North Carolina due to its "bathroom bill," calling for repealing the state's death penalty, creating a Community Justice Initiative Trust Fund to implement "restorative justice" and replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day.

Of the 15 City Council members, 14 are Democrats, and each makes about $179,000 per year. Is the Democratic supermajority Council in such a progressive bubble that its members do not realize there is a homeless crisis?

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Stewart Easterby, South Pasadena

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