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HOMELESS WATCH : Winter Salvation

October 06, 1994

Congress, approaching adjournment this Friday, has a final chance to help homeless Americans before the onset of winter makes life on the streets even more miserable. It should approve an ambitious Clinton Administration plan to help get poor people off the streets.

The bold federal plan would double the homelessness budget of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The price tag is daunting, $1.6 billion, but so is the problem. On any given night as many as 500,000 men, women and children across the nation are without permanent shelter.

For many of them, housing isn't enough . One in four homeless adults needs drug treatment also. One in three requires mental health medication or counseling. Most need job training and other support to help them get out of public shelters and into permanent housing.

The Administration's well-thought-out plan would reform the current hodgepodge of homelessness services, eliminate wasteful duplication and emphasize strategies that have proved successful.

The plan would bring Los Angeles $40 million next year because federal funds would be allocated on the basis of local poverty and unemployment rates. Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino and Riverside counties would share $46 million. Even though Washington would provide the money, the feds wouldn't dictate solutions. They would allow local authorities to tailor homeless programs to specific local needs.

This creative plan could go a long way toward thinning the ranks of the homeless. It merits Congress' approval.

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