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Making More Room at the Bottom : Prop. 107: The Feds Won’t Do It, So We Should--Vote Yes for Housing

As many as 250,000 Californians are homeless. A growing number--at least a quarter--are mothers and children in search of affordable housing. They need help. Proposition 107 on the June 5 ballot would provide it.

The Housing and Homeless Bond Act would authorize $150 million in general obligation bonds to provide 5,560 additional beds in emergency shelters and transitional housing. And that is just the beginning.

The bond measure would also finance the renovation of 12,000 apartments and the construction of 4,000 units designated for low-income senior citizens, disabled adults who have special needs and the working poor.

The state must shoulder these varied housing burdens because the federal government no longer does the job. California has the largest shortage of affordable rental housing in the nation. Apartments that rent for $400 or less are difficult to find in most urban regions. The shortage is especially severe in Los Angeles. It forces hard-working families to set up housekeeping in unimproved garages or unsafe tenements. The scarcity also forces poor mothers and children to double up with relatives or camp out in battered cars. Equally hard hit are elderly men and women on fixed incomes who can afford to spend no more than $200 on housing.

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Homeless men have the toughest time finding shelter. Many simply cannot function; they drink, use drugs and are mentally ill. Others, however, are capable of living decently if they can find a room in a safe and sanitary single-residency hotel. The lack of such rooms forces poor men to curl up in squalid doorways, sleep in cardboard boxes under freeways and stretch out on sidewalks.

Emergency shelters provide a temporary solution, but night after night there’s no room at the inn. As many as 1,800 homeless men are turned away nightly at shelters in Los Angeles County. That unfortunate scenario is repeated in other counties. There is an urgent need for more beds in temporary shelters.

But, in the long run, the best remedy for homelessness is a lot more affordable rental housing. Proposition 107 would help homeless people, and impoverished tenants. It would also help 4,000 first-time home buyers, primarily young families and veterans, to purchase a house--no mean feat in most California markets. This needed measure offers other benefits as well that would stimulate jobs and new local revenues.

Most of all, the bond measure would provide a decent and affordable place to live for thousands of Californians. Vote Yes on June 5.

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