Homelessness

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Causes of Homelessness in America

Homelessness is an ongoing problem for our society. Every day we come to terms with the effects of it, but what about the causes? By definition, a person who is homeless lives in public. The lack and destruction of federal housing programs and increasing rents forced those who are homeless to do in public what everyone prefers to do in private.

According to the website, National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, the Low Income Housing Information Service estimates that “there are twice as many low-income families searching for housing as there are units available”, many of which are waiting on Section 8 housing, a list that could take up to six years or more. The H.U.D Report, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, states that the lack of affordable housing is so tight that officials in the twenty-six cities surveyed estimate that low-income households spend almost half their income on rent. The rates for vacancies in this country run between two percent and about ten percent, and the rates of homelessness run under one percent. So the interesting question is why vacant housing units don’t get matched with those of low income households?

“After a protracted last-minute budget fight with Congress in December, President Clinton signed legislation containing $1.7 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the federal government's primary source of energy assistance for the poor. The amount represents a cut of $300 million from the $2 billion appropriated for FY 2000, the previous fiscal year,” (Energy Assistance/LIHEAP). The energy advocates are now worried that with the increased energy prices, the need for assistance will increase and there will not be enough money to help. The Department of Energy estimates that home heating oil prices could be 30 percent higher this winter than last, and that natural gas prices could be 40 percent higher (Energy Assistance/LIHEAP). The LIHEAP Coalition, an alliance of organizations that support LIHEAP funding, estimates that only about 13 percent of eligible families actually receive LIHEAP assistance now, and that this number would be expected to drop further under the amount Congress appropriated. Recent surveys indicate that in 1999, when heating bills were unaffordable, roughly 21-25 percent of LIHEAP recipients went without medical care and 12-13 percent went without food so they could cover their energy costs (Why are People Homeless?).

The national median housing wage, based on each county's housing wage for a two bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent weighted by Census 2000 population figures, is $13.87 an hour, more than twice the federal minimum wage of $5.15 per hour. This means that on average, there must be more than two full-time minimum wage workers in a household in order for the household to afford a two bedroom housing unit at the Fair Market Rent (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 1998). That means that in order for a single parent to afford this living confinement, she/he would have to work 87 hours each week to afford a two bedroom apartment.

Our economy right now is at its lowest, and including people with degrees are finding it harder to get jobs. Not to mention the increased rate of layoffs for the Tech industry, which usually include packages for an estimated amount of time, and after that unemployment usually kicks in. There are assistance programs such as welfare. However, “The Welfare Act of 1996 was designed to move people from welfare to jobs. According to a letter to the Chicago Tribune, once they got jobs, they lost public assistance,” explained Arloa Sutter, executive director of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, which runs two Chicago shelters. Then when they lose their jobs, they find it is difficult to qualify for assistance again under the revised regulations. The lower class of people are not the source to be worried about, because even though they may...
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