California voters support plan to spend $600 million for homeless veterans

BERKELEY Calif. Wed Jun 4, 2014 8:54am EDT

Army veteran Cassandra Lewis, 52, sits on her bed at New Directions women's house, a long-term transitional program for female veterans dealing with issues of homelessness, trauma and addiction, in Los Angeles, California, November 18, 2011. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Army veteran Cassandra Lewis, 52, sits on her bed at New Directions women's house, a long-term transitional program for female veterans dealing with issues of homelessness, trauma and addiction, in Los Angeles, California, November 18, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson

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BERKELEY Calif. (Reuters) - California residents have voted for a plan to spend $600 million to build houses for homeless veterans in the state with the highest number of ex-servicemen without a roof in the United States.

Under the plan backed by voters in a primary election on Tuesday, the state will sell bonds to build apartments and temporary shelters for qualifying veterans or those recovering from physical injuries or mental health issues.

California has about 25 percent or 19,000 homeless veterans, according to the Coalition for Veterans Housing support group.

With the winding down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of those returning need housing, employment, and mental health and drug treatment.

The proposal, which also received bipartisan support from lawmakers and faced no organized opposition, means the state will pay out an estimated $50 million annually for 15 years in interest payments on the bonds.

In her first address as speaker last month, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, who co-authored the measure with former Speaker John Perez, named homelessness among veterans as a priority.

(Editing by Sharon Bernstein and James Macharia)

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