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Cedillo Bill Proposes Bond to Fund Supportive Housing and Services for Low Income and Disabled Veterans

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Sen. Gilbert Cedillo introduced SB 595 today which proposes the sale of $1.5 billion in general obligation bonds to fund supportive housing for veterans at risk of homelessness and existing homeless veterans. The bill would put an initiative, the Homeless Veterans Housing and Supportive Services Act of 2010, on the November 2010 ballot.

If signed into law it would be the first such financing of veterans' services by an individual state. The model may be utilized by other states facing waves of returning veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and depleted resources to service their needs.

"California has the second highest rate of homeless vets in the nation. On any given night there are 30,000 to 55,000 veterans out on the streets and that must be changed. As we enter our 7th year in Iraq and Afghanistan, the number of disabled veterans stands to increase dramatically. We have a commitment to them," said Cedillo. The focus of SB 595 is on the most destitute and disabled veterans however it will likely benefit many homeless Vietnam veterans as well.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs has noted that federal Department of Veterans Affairs provides support for only a small fraction of those needing housing and services. For the federal fiscal year 2009 only $130 million nationwide has been authorized thus far for homeless veteran housing and services.

Housing constructed under the bill would be veteran-specific and include supportive services at these facilities including mental and physical health services, employment training, substance abuse treatment, readjustment counseling, and therapy for PTSD, TBI, or other service-related trauma. Lack of support and social isolation following discharge are the greatest risk factors for homelessness among veterans. Other risk factors include physical disability, mental disability often coupled with substance abuse, and the high cost of housing relative to income especially for extremely low income veterans.

A finance committee including the state Controller and Treasurer would determine the timing on issuing bonds. Proceeds from the bond sales would be channeled through the Department of Housing and Community Development with a separate entity handling oversight on distribution.

"These are men and women who have sacrificed greatly to protect our country and our way of life. Housing - a very basic human need - as well as a path to a productive role in civilian life is the minimum we can do for the most honored members of society," said Cedillo.

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