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All veterans deserve a roof over their heads

May 7, 2014

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As Americans, it is our responsibility to vote yes on Proposition 41. Proposition 41 will directly serve veterans — homeless veterans, low-income veterans and their families, veterans struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental disabilities, and veterans adjusting to physical disabilities due to their commitment to secure our freedom.

 

After putting their lives on the line for us, veterans should not have to struggle to find a safe place to live and the support they need.

Proposition 41 on the June 3 ballot will change that by putting to use $600 million in bond funds now sitting idle to help prevent homelessness across the state, build more affordable housing and directly serve the hundreds of thousands of veterans living in California and Riverside County.

The Veterans Housing and Homeless Prevention Act of 2014 is long overdue. Designed to repurpose millions of unspent bonds from the state’s voter-approved veterans home loan program of 2000 and 2008, Proposition 41 invests these funds in the creation of multifamily rental, transitional and other affordable housing opportunities. Additionally, it provides much-needed counseling, education and other support services all for veterans.

Serving the Coachella Valley and Riverside County for more than 32 years, we at the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition understand firsthand how important stable, supportive housing is to an individual and family and how difficult it is to find in our community. Couple that reality with staggering low income, high unemployment and a high predominance of war-related ailments, and our veterans have an even harder road before them.

Veterans, like all human beings, deserve a decent, safe and affordable place to live and a community that works with them to improve their lives.

The Housing Authority of the County of Riverside recently conducted an assessment of the community needs and strategies for addressing homelessness among veterans. Specifically, the group evaluated the current homeless veteran population, veterans at risk of becoming homeless and the existing housing resources available for veterans.

 

The results of this assessment are staggering:

  • Riverside County ranks in the top 10 percent nationally for it homeless veteran population.
  • Riverside County has the fourth-largest veteran population in California.
  • 15,000 Riverside County veterans are currently at risk of homelessness
  • Riverside County has utilized 100 percent of its Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing rental assistance allocation
  • 1,961 veterans are currently waiting for County of Riverside Housing Assistance.
  • 290 homeless veterans were identified in the 2014 Veterans Point in Time (PIT) count.
  • 59 percent of homeless veterans are chronically homeless.
  • 80 percent of homeless female veterans are chronically homeless.
  • 57 percent of homeless veterans report a major disease or health condition.

Also, in Riverside County, per the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Out of Reach Report, a veteran employed at minimum wage would have to work 74 hours per week to afford a typical one-bedroom apartment. This makes veterans living on disability income and those working low-wage jobs at serious risk of falling into homelessness.

 

The Housing Coalition and the U.S. Veterans Initiative are undertaking a plan to build 138 units of permanent supportive housing and 80 beds of transitional housing known as March Veterans Village on the former March Air Force Base. The development, which has more than $16 million committed from state, local and private funders, is expected to break ground in January 2016.

Proposition 41 will allow us to serve more veterans at this development, and at others throughout Riverside County.

Veterans deserve our commitment to fund safe, decent and affordable housing, and the supportive services they need. Vote yes on Proposition 41.

John F. Mealey has been executive director of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition since it was founded 32 years ago. Email him via cvhc@cvhc.org




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