Produced by Pat McConahay
They labor in the
fields to bring us the food that we eat, harvesting everything from
tomatoes in Bakersfield to cherries in San Joaquin County. At the end
of their very long day, many farmworkers come home to housing that most
people would consider unliveable.
workers are the backbone of the state's agricultural industry. A recent
survey by the Public Policy Institute of California -- an independent
research organization -- found that the Central Valley is the fastest
growing region in the state thanks to the surge in the Latino population,
many of whom are farm-workers. But housing has declined for migrant
workers by as much as a third in 20 years.
At $6.26 an hour,
combined with the seasonal nature of the work, farm workers have the
lowest income surveyed by the U.S. Census. Another major reason for
the housing shortage is that more farmers have stopped providing licensed
labor camps where, historically, many workers lived. A survey by a coalition
of California agricultural associations and farm worker advocates found
only a third of the farmers who responded provide housing.
One of the difficulties
in developing housing is the variety of migrant workers. Some are families
who follow the work and need temporary shelter. Other families need
permanent housing. The largest need is for single men living away from
their families. It's also the hardest to provide because some fear an
increase in crime in those types of housing developments.
The 300-unit Harney
Lane complex is one of three state-owned, county labor centers. More
than 100 families are waiting for one of the small apartments that rent
for up to $238 a month. It even offers a day care program. Originally
opened for a 6-month season, increased funding now allows families to
stay for 9 months, enabling their children to stay in school.
housing endeavor is the Via De Guadalupe, a 60-unit apartment complex
offering farmworker families who qualify a place they can rent permanently.
It was created with the help of the Catholic Charities of Fresno and
the California Endowment. Self-Help Enterprises, a non-profit organization
that builds low-income housing, constructed the complex that provides
far more than shelter. There's also an innovative afterschool educational
program and soon there will be a health care facility. But many more
of these privately developed complexes, as well as government-subsidized
housing, are needed to meet future demands...