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Californian’s now facing a pair of wildfires; Also on the Tuesday rundown: Higher education in New Jersey: a racial split; plus food resources still available despite the “public charge” proposal.

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Affordable Housing Supporters Gather in Salem

Advocates are meeting in Salem to discuss ways to fix the state's affordable-housing shortage. (Oregon Food Bank)
Advocates are meeting in Salem to discuss ways to fix the state's affordable-housing shortage. (Oregon Food Bank)
February 9, 2016

SALEM, Ore. - Representatives from food banks across Oregon are stepping out of the pantry to discuss the state's housing crisis with lawmakers in Salem today.

Affordable housing for Oregon's growing population has become a statewide issue, and legislators are proposing a number of bills to address it. One organization joining the food banks in Salem is ACCESS, which provides food and housing assistance for residents of Jackson County.

David Mulig, director of support service for ACCESS, says the housing crisis has left that county's homeless in an even tougher spot.

"With the lack of housing, or affordable housing, a lot of our homeless population are having to remain on the streets, and not getting the services they need or deserve," says Mulig.

The Legislature is considering at least six housing-related bills, including repealing what's known as the "inclusionary zoning" ban in order to create more affordable housing, and a proposal to allow the state to build or buy housing for low-income residents.

Mulig is also concerned the housing shortage exacerbates another problem, the growing number of homeless veterans in Jackson County. Veterans are drawn to the area for the VA's rehabilitation center located in White City, and more are expected.

But Mulig says the small community already struggles to keep up with the demand for housing, and veterans who want to stay in southern Oregon don't have a lot of places to turn.

"When they get released in Jackson County, they find it's a great place to live and that there are other resources that can help them," he says. "Unfortunately, they're being discharged, oftentimes back into the street."

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR