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Everyone deserves clean and safe housing 

It is a sad fact that we have homeless people in our community and our country. There are as many as 90,000 homeless people in Los Angeles, and the number in San Luis Obispo is nearly 4,000. Many people in our community give generously to various organizations that work to feed and house the poor among us. And the county is working on a 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness.

Dan DeVaul repeatedly claims he “provides a valuable service in housing the homeless.” Seldom is it noted that he takes money from these very poor people. He has housed them in barns and tents and other substandard accommodations, and has now been found guilty of violating laws established to protect the health and safety of all of us.

We have health and safety codes for a reason. Slumlords are prosecuted for taking unfair advantage of those most disadvantaged among us, often placing people in danger. DeVaul has now officially joined their ranks.

In 2003, there were 73 people living on DeVaul’s property, paying $260 a month. At $5 an hour, tenants could work off the rent. All on a cash basis; no reporting, no taxes, no OSHA. Since then, the number of tenants has fluctuated, and the current cost for rent has increased.

Since there are those who seem to believe that it is fine for DeVaul to rent substandard housing to the poor among us, I have a suggestion: We all agree there is an unmet need for low income housing, so let’s come together as a community and agree that we will change our health and safety codes.

We will say that since there is such need, it is all right to take money from people to house them in sheds, barns, or tents. This way, anyone with a barn, an old rat-infested RV, or yard space to put up a tent, can take money and house the homeless, not just DeVaul. Adequate septic systems will not be required, nor any of the other conditions of standardized building.

Yes, we will have to agree that the poor and homeless among us are second-class citizens who do not have the same right to clean and safe housing others of us enjoy. But, hey, it’s better than “living in the crick,” some say.

Of course, there is always the possibility that our community would not find such changes acceptable. I am among those who believe that this is not a viable solution to a very real and difficult problem, so I will continue to join my neighbors in supporting the many programs that legitimately address the housing, food, clothing, and other needs of the poor among us.

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