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‘War’ Over Section 8? Lancaster Mayor Slams Giving Benefits To Parolees

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LANCASTER (CBS) — A Southland mayor on Monday condemned a recent decision by Los Angeles County officials to allow probationers and parolees to have access to taxpayer-subsidized Section 8 housing ahead of seniors and the disabled.

City of Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris leveled sharp criticism at the approval by the Board of Supervisors’ 4-1 vote on April 3 that he said unfairly disadvantaged those families who have been waiting to receiving housing benefits.

“I am absolutely appalled and disgusted that the Board of Supervisors would allow felons to cut the line for Section 8 housing benefits,” said Parris. “People who have played by the rules, lead a clean life and have waited years to qualify for Section 8 housing now have to wait until criminals who are just out of prison take these valuable government-subsidized vouchers.”

“When you overload us with problems, yes, we’re hostile. We’re extremely hostile. We are fighting for our neighborhoods,” Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris added.

Supervisors Gloria Molina, Don Knabe, Zev Yaroslavsky, and Mark Ridley-Thomas voted in favor of the new policy, which also slashes the criminal history review period for drug-related and violent crime from three years down to two years.

Parris slammed the board for what he described as its apparent contradictory approach to public safety and welfare.

“What is also amazing about the County’s action is that it seems to fly in the face of their other recent Board actions where the Supervisors were critical of the state in dealing with parolee housing issues,” he said. “The County has the unique ability to speak out of both sides of its mouth.”

“They’re adding felonies to the people they’re going to be putting on Section 8 and we all know where they’re sending them. They’re sending them to the Antelope Valley. That’s why 20-something percent of them, or I think it’s up to 30-percent now are living in the Antelope Valley. That’s not fair,” he said.

The mayor also pointed to the murder of a respected Lancaster store owner by a parolee as further evidence that the Board made the wrong policy decision.

“Some of our hardworking families are going to be hurt and/or murdered as a result of this decision,” Parris said. “How can anyone say we are not in a war over how Section 8 is being administered in Los Angeles County?”

Members of the Inner City Law Center believe the mayor is misinformed and that the program is designed to get homeless people off the streets.

“If someone’s committed a serious crime, they would not be eligible for this program. Drug-related offenders are not eligible. Serious offenders are not eligible under this program. This is only going to affect people who have committed minor quality of life offenses,” Greg Spiegal of the Inner City Law Center said.

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