Increases in unemployment and housing costs contributed to a 3% increase in homelessness between 2008 and 2009, according to a report issued by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) and its Homelessness Research Institute.
In “State of Homelessness in America,” NAEH found that decreases in poor workers’ real income, coupled with rising unemployment, led to increased housing cost burdens for families, making them increasingly vulnerable to homelessness. During this period, low income households increased by 12% while cost burdened households increased by 9%. Especially vulnerable are those discharged from prison and youth aging out of foster care, the report found.
At a January 12 press conference, NAEH President Nan Roman called on Congress and the Administration to target economic recovery efforts to the lowest income households needing them the most. She urged strengthening the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing (HPRP) program. Speaking at the event, Ebony Roscoe described her experience of being homeless in Washington, DC and then finding housing. After receiving HPRP funds, she was able to secure a home for her family and move out of a shelter. “Finding housing is like a brick being lifted off my shoulders,” Ms. Roscoe said.
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) shared his concern over the hardships that low income households face. He cited rent increases of up to 45% in Rhode Island in 2008 as a partial cause for the state’s 34% increase in homelessness. It is insufficient to make a statement of concern and not put legislative effort behind it, he added.
NAEH utilized four economic indicators to assess the recession’s impact on the homeless and those at risk. First, 2008 and 2009 American Community Survey (ACS) data were used to determine the percentage of poor households facing a severe housing cost burden, those paying more than 50% of their monthly income toward rent and living below the federal poverty line. The data showed a 9% increase nationwide and in 40 states.
Using Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment data, NAEH found a 60% increase in those unemployed nationally between 2008 and 2009. Third, ACS data indicated that poor workers’ earnings fell by 2%. As the final measure of economic distress, RealtyTrac data were analyzed to capture the rising rate of foreclosures nationwide; they showed a 21% increase from 2008 to 2009.
According to NAEH’s analysis, housing conditions can be an indicator of greater risk of homelessness. “Doubling up” by living with friends or family for economic reasons is the most common precursor among adults in family households. The analysis found that 43% of family households in the shelter system reported entering the system after living with family or friends in a doubled up housing situation. The percentage of those doing so increased by 12% from 2008 to 2009.
The report includes a state-by-state summary of population changes for those homeless, severely housing cost burdened and doubled up.
To read “State of Homelessness in America,” go to: http://www.endhomelessness.org/content/article/detail/3668