Date: August 31, 2012
Title: Homeless and Working
44 percent of Americans today who are homeless are working class citizens. It is the waiter, the waitress, the grocery store clerk, the school bus aide, the office clerk or nurse's aide. The face of the homelessness is no longer the drug addict or the mentally ill covered in dirty clothes and asking for spare change. The new faces are the people dressed in business casual clothes and going to work clocking in 25-40 hours every week who simply cannot afford a place to call their own. They turn to the shelter system when there's nowhere else to go.
Sandy who works as a school crossing guard and single mother of four explains that she now makes $9.00 an hour. She lost her job where she once made $15.00 but due to the company closing down she was stuck without a job for two years. She had exhausted her savings and unemployment and now resides at Cornerstone Manor waiting to receive her income tax refund, which will give her the one-month's rent and security deposit she needs. She doesn't qualify for any assistance but Medicaid and food stamps. In order to have an apartment that will accommodate her family she also pays rent of $176.00 a week. She found herself not able to save for the one month's security and most of the agencies she went to had no funds available to help her. So at the shelter she remains. She has hidden from her family that she is living in the shelter because she is ashamed. This is a crystal clear picture of an American working class citizen still residing in a shelter system.
Department of Social Services and the Coalition of Homeless Alliance numbers in 2010 had a four- percent increase from 40 percent. With the Section 8 program being almost non- existent with a ten-year waiting list and public housing with just as long of a wait time, those employed are flooding the shelter system and it's not a good feeling. Some of the reasons include being laid off and having to take a huge pay cut. It's better to have a small paying job than no job.
Living on minimum wage of $7.25 an hour with a family of four isn't enough to sustain a family. It doesn't cover the bare minimum of food, clothing, and transportation. Finding suitable housing has quadrupled in some cities and states. Many who have been laid off of good paying jobs have lost their homes due to foreclosure and mounds of debt occurring while living off of unemployment. The end result is almost always going to the shelter system when they have either no family or worn out their welcome with relatives.
Nowadays, to reside in the shelter system means you hopefully qualify and that there is space available. It is always a possibility there is no room available and you could sleep out on the street on any given day. In New York State if employed you are now required to pay for residing in a homeless shelter, which can be almost 50 percent of your income. I understand the principle of teaching someone to have responsibility but if a person is looking for suitable housing how do they come up with one month’s rent and a security deposit if they have to pay rent at the shelter? How do they even think of taking the half they have to survive and save when it's so little already? With the homeless Section 8 program non-existent and public housing waiting list as long as 5 to 7 years, some people feel as if they are stuck and will never find a home of their own.
In New York City they have even went to the extent of offering relocation assistance to another state or opportunity to live with a relative paying for transportation and one month's rent to alleviate some of the overcrowding. It's not a real solution because now that person who was once employed has to start all over from scratch, ultimately having to apply for public assistance, look for a job and rebuild their whole life over again. It's isn't a cure for homelessness - to just pass the buck to another state, setting that person two steps back.
The growing homeless epidemic is a major crisis in America and if we don't find a solution to helping those families who are willing to earn a living have affordable housing, this will continue to be the face of homelessness. It may take sending those individuals in shelters back to school for better paying jobs. It may take credit and finance classes to manage their income. It may take implementing a program to provide transitional housing for those who are earning an income. The abandoned buildings that are just collecting rats should be rehabilitated and used to house the many who are working and just need a hand up. In 2012 let's work to eradicate homelessness.
© 2012 Tamyara Brown- Tamluvstowrite