House the Homeless has been looking at the plight of homeless families in the United States, and it’s an ever-growing demographic. Tens of thousands of children are being raised by parents who can’t provide even a minimum of safety and security. Changing schools multiple times during their formative years, they are at a big disadvantage educationally. They don’t own computers or even have quiet, clean spaces to do their homework.
This dismal litany of chaos and confusion could go on, but let’s think about what could fix the situation. Affordable housing, for starters. Because House the Homeless is located here, this website often refers to Austin, Texas, but that’s not the only reason. In many ways it represents the typical American city in the second decade of the 2000s. This description by Dylan Baddour paints a sobering picture:
In 2010 the Austin-based Center for Public Policy Priorities determined that a family of four without employer insurance needed a yearly income of $56,000 to live in Austin – about $27 an hour, 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year. In 2014 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said a living wage for a single adult with a child in Austin was $19.56, or $8.60 for a single adult alone. The 2009 Comprehensive Housing Market Study determined that 55 percent of Austin households earned under $56,000 a year in 2007.
Austin is certainly atypical in some ways, too. It tries a little harder than some other cities. Check this out:
In 2006 Austin voters approved the city to issue $55 million in debt, a bond, in order to collect investor money for affordable housing, and over 2,500 units available to lower income brackets have since been built across the city.
Please take a look at Baddour’s video report above (under 6 minutes), which features House the Homeless President Richard R. Troxell and several other knowledgeable people outlining the current Austin real estate scene. Richard is also chair of the Universal Living Wage campaign. A living wage is, of course, what people need if they are to pay for housing. Remember when a family could get by with just one working parent? Remember when working-class families used to be able to buy homes? Now a pair of employed adults has no guarantee of being able to put even a rented roof over their children’s heads.
Where are the answers? Inside the pages of Richard’s Livable Incomes: Real Solutions that Stimulate the Economy. The book is also available in an Amazon Kindle edition. Even scanning the table of contents can be an exercise in enlightenment. How many people even think about the difference between combatting homelessness and preventing homelessness? They are two different endeavors, and more attention to the “prevention” part could save enormous expense and anguish.
Many people don’t fully understand the varying roles of the federal government, state government, and local governments in both preventing and combatting homelessness. Almost no one thinks about the huge holes in the social fabric that keep on leaking people into homelessness. The operative word here is “discharge,” which unfortunately has more than one meaning, including a very unpleasant one. Hospitals, prisons, the foster care system, the military — every day, all these institutions release people into homelessness as if flushing waste down a sewer. Read what Richard says about the concept, “Discharge No One into Homelessness.”
Source: “Housing the Working Class in Austin,” multimedianewsroom.us, 05/01/14
Image by Dylan Baddour