Here, in no particular order, are a few contributing factors to becoming homeless.
1. The earthquake/tsunami combination is a guaranteed creator of homelessness on a massive scale. Live in a place like Japan, Haiti, or California, and sooner or later, you or someone you love will be displaced by natural disaster. Same goes for hurricanes, just about anywhere. Floods are also a traditional and almost totally reliable way to be rendered homeless.
Richard R. Troxell says in Looking Up at the Bottom Line:
Many factors led to the full-blown homelessness in which we now see our nation embroiled. For the last several years, the number of people experiencing homelessness on an annual basis in our country has risen to three and a half million people. At times, the numbers have swollen beyond that due to disasters like hurricanes Rita and Katrina.
2. Fire is a popular way to become homeless. Quantitatively, fire may not account for the largest number of people experiencing homelessness for the first time, but it sure does make headlines. Nowadays, after every fire, there is not only a death toll and an injured toll, but a homeless toll. This is a perfect example of what we mean by awareness. These numbers help to remind us that there are other kinds of damage besides being dead or wounded. Also, there are other losses more important than the destruction of buildings.
3. Mortgage foreclosure used to be a relatively rare and extremely awe-inspiring phenomenon, but now it’s like the common cold. It leads to a wider range of possible outcomes. Some former homeowners manage to get into a cheaper house, or a rental, or they move in with relatives. Others wind up in family shelters, or live in vehicles. And, of course, there is always the street.
Buying a house is the biggest purchase and most serious financial commitment that most people will ever make. It takes a truly analytical mind to appreciate the deep absurdity of some of the stuff that has been going on. Robert Scheer, for instance, described how the process that controls the fate of millions of homeowners is run by robots. Astonishingly, even some of the voracious banks in charge of the disastrous housing market had to admit that it was time to curb the insanity and call a temporary moratorium on foreclosures. Scheer asked,
How do you foreclose on a home when you can’t figure out who owns it because the original mortgage is part of a derivatives package that has been sliced and diced so many ways that its legal ownership is often unrecognizable?… To engage in the recklessness of turning people’s homes — their castles and nest eggs — into playthings of Wall Street market hustlers, or securitization of the assets, as it was termed, homeownership record-keeping had to be mangled beyond recognition.
Speaking of working at a minimum-wage job… According to the last several U.S. Conference of Mayors reports, you can work a full 40-hour minimum-wage job and still be unable to afford basic housing. This is true throughout the entire U.S. Imagine working full time and still not being able to put a roof over your head… other than a bridge.
4. Domestic discord. This can occur between couples, between generations in a family, or between friends. In any shared household, somebody is always vulnerable to being kicked out. It might be you! Or… sometimes there is an intolerable situation, and a person has to leave home. If you are one of them, you will probably run up against critics who just don’t get it. They think the best thing for you would be to get back under the parental or spousal roof. It’s hard for them to imagine that sleeping in a shelter or in an alley could be a step up from what you had before.
Source: “Looking Up at the Bottom Line,” Amazon.com
Source: “Invasion of the Robot Home Snatchers,” Truthdig, 10/12/10
Image by yeowatzup, used under its Creative Commons license.