Sunday, March 11, 2001

Migrants need more housing

The Associated Press

        OWENSBORO, Ky. — Daviess County farmers are meeting with county and farm officials to discuss ways to create more housing for migrant workers.

        Bill Simpson, a member of the Southern States Cooperatives Federation, said at Friday's meeting that the migrant housing shortage is worse than most people realize.

        “Besides Native Americans, they (migrant workers) are the most ill-housed group in the United States,” Mr. Simpson said.

        But local farmers are trying to correct the problem.

        Leland Green, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, said farmers could be eligible for funding programs that would help them build large, centralized housing units, or smaller units on individual farms.

        Mr. Simpson said the residents would have to be legally admitted workers to live in the housing.

        “To be brutally honest, we don't check them that good,” Mr. Simpson said. “We don't have an enforcement arm in Rural Development to look at those things.”

        Scotty Baesler, who is working on housing issues for the Kentucky Housing Authority, said farmers will also have to battle discrimination from neighbors who don't want migrants in their area.

        Before the group can apply for funding, Mr. Baesler said it must conduct a survey to determine the need for farm workers, the community's attitude toward migrants and how a migrant housing program will be managed.

        Daviess County farmer Rod Kuegel said resolving the housing problem will be crucial to growers.

        “I think this is something that's going to have to happen if we're going to expand the co-op,” Mr. Kuegel said.


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