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Providing a Home and a Commitment : Grower’s step to house farm workers may nudge others into action

When the grower Harry Singh & Sons opens its 328-bed housing complex for employees this week near Bonsall, it will be a significant step for homeless farm workers in North County.

The Singh family deserves credit for doing with its own money what the state and local governments have mostly failed to do in San Diego County.

The housing is basic. Four double bunks and eight lockers to a room. Communal baths, laundries and dining, plus the rules that go along with dormitory-style life. But rent of $16.50 a week, and $44.80 a week for 21 meals, is practically impossible to beat, except by living in the brush.

Singh’s motivation was strong. With amnesty, the Singhs feared losing employees to other types of work. Housing, the family reasoned, might persuade some to continue to help farm the grower’s 750 acres. That’s enlightened self-interest.

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Singh also showed much more foresight than many government agencies and citizen groups, which have mostly focused on closing down the illegal and unhealthy migrant encampments in the brush. What that approach usually accomplishes is just to move the camps.

What’s missing in North County--and much of the rest of the county--is a major commitment to all types of low-income housing, for migrants and other homeless or poorly housed residents.

Perhaps Singh & Sons’ experience, in overcoming community opposition and working its way through the bureaucracy, will nudge other employers and local governments to look for creative ways to build low-income housing.


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