ECHO is an amazing organization in downtown Austin, TX and we are proud to be working with them.
Homelessness is a complex issue that has more than one root cause. According to ECHO, last year the contributors to homelessness included:
“Poverty – According to the U.S. Census Bureau data released Tuesday September 13, 2011, the nation’s poverty rate rose to 15.1% (46.2 million) in 2010, up from 14.3% (approximately 43.6 million) in 2009 and to its highest level since 1993. The Office of Management and Budget defined the poverty threshold level as less than $23,050 for a family of four.
Shortage of Affordable Housing – In order to afford monthly rent for a one-bedroom in Texas, you need to make at least $14.9 per hour, or $31,000 per year. This calculation assumes you will spend no more than 30% of your income on rent (the generally accepted standard of affordability). If you earn the minimum wage in this state ($7.25), then you will have to work 82 hours per week to have an income high enough to afford this rent.
With more households choose renting over homeownership, the demand for affordably priced rental housing is surging, pushing rents upward and vacancy rates down. These trends have the most severe implications for extremely low income households (those earning at or below 30% of area median income). For extremely low income Americans, including those on fixed incomes, finding an affordable, decent apartment continues to be incredibly challenging.
Mental Illness – About half of people experiencing homelessness suffer from mental health issues. At any given point in time, 45 percent of homeless people report having had indicators of mental health problems during the past year. About 25 percent of the homeless population has serious mental illness, including chronic depression, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
Less Work Opportunities That Provide a Living Wage – A few decades ago, a person in the United States could obtain a job that paid a living wage without a college degree. Why is this not true anymore? Factors contributing to wage declines include a steep drop in the number and bargaining power of unionized workers; erosion in the value of the minimum wage; a decline in manufacturing jobs and the corresponding expansion of lower-paying service-sector employment; globalization and increased nonstandard work, such as temporary and part-time employment.
Decline in Public Assistance – The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (the federal welfare reform law created under the Clinton administration) repealed the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program and replaced it with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). In 2005, TANF helped only a third of the children that AFDC helped reach above the 50% poverty line. And from 2006 through 2008, the TANF caseload continued to decline while food stamp caseloads increased.
Lack of Affordable Health Care and Disability Assistance – If you are a low-income individual or family, you may not have health insurance or suitable health insurance. You could easily be an illness away from homelessness in such a dire situation. Those with disabilities typically have higher medical costs than non-disabled individuals. Combined with the possibility that someone with a disability cannot work or cannot obtain a job that pays a living wage, those with disabilities are at risk of becoming homeless.
Domestic Violence – Individuals who live in poverty in a domestic violence situation are often forced to choose between abusive relationships and homelessness. 50% of the cities surveyed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors identified domestic violence as a primary cause of homelessness.
Substance Abuse and Addiction – The relationship between addiction and homelessness is complex and controversial. In short, many people who are addicted to alcohol and drugs never become homeless, but people who are poor and addicted are at an increased risk of homelessness.
Released from Incarceration without Enough Transitional Assistance – Those who are released from incarceration notoriously receive inadequate help transitioning from incarcerated life to life outside of incarceration. This can begin a vicious cycle of homelessness and recidivism for some. This subgroup stuck in the cycle becomes incarcerated again because of crimes related to homelessness, ranging from theft to obtain resources for living to laws that criminalize the homeless.
Aging Out of Foster Care – Youth who “age out” of foster care at the age of 18 often do not have the resources or capabilities to avoid homelessness. About 12% of youth who have left foster care report being homeless at least once. 37% of foster youth aged 17–20 had not completed their high school degree or received a GED. They more often suffer from mental health problems. They more often become involved in crime or are victims of crime. Former foster youth are less likely to be employed than their peers; they are more likely to rely on public assistance; and they earn, on average, too little to escape poverty.”
Macpack is working to lessen some of these issues by bringing awareness to any and all who will listen. Thank you for your help in this endeavor!
Eryn Snowden-Rawley – Director