Have you given much thought to what causes homelessness? You may have some thoughts about how someone may end up homeless. Some people may assume that people who are homeless caused their problems through their own poor choices, perhaps including drug abuse, or an unwillingness to work. Many of us are unaware of our biases until we learn more, allowing us to shed old beliefs.
When people think of homelessness, they don't always think of families. But in reality, 35% of the total homeless population in the United States is comprised of families. Let’s take a look into how a family might find themselves experiencing homelessness. What happens to get them there?
There are three primary reasons families fall into homelessness: lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty. Let’s look at each one.
Lack of affordable housing
Take a look at these grim numbers:
Many people coming into our program earn $10 per hour. A renter needs to earn $20.21 per hour to afford a two-bedroom rental in Comal County, if they work 40 hours per week. That’s an annual income of $42,040. Some can make it work on less than that, and a two-income minimum wage household may manage to just get by.
But what happens when there is only one income in the family? You can imagine how difficult it would be to earn enough money to afford or even find affordable housing.
Let’s consider childcare’s role as a barrier to employment. Many families do not have family members willing or able to fill the child care role while the parent works. Child care programs are expensive, averaging $800 to $1,000 per child per month. Child care assistance programs are not always available. Additionally, the child care assistance program requires the parent to be working in order to qualify; but in order to work, a parent must have reliable childcare; and so, the cycle goes. And last, but not least, child care is generally only available M-F from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, limiting what jobs a parent can accept.
Nearly 41 million people (1 in 8) in the U.S. live below the poverty line. The poverty line for a family of four is $25,750. A worker needs to earn $12.38/hour just to reach the poverty level for a family of four.
Let’s say a family was able to reach the poverty level. They are still living on very little and most likely living paycheck to paycheck with no cushion in the case of an emergency. And, as most of us know, emergencies always happen.
Family Promise: our role in the community
FPGNB helps families identify barriers to housing stability, provides avenues to gain new life skills and works with families to build upon their existing strengths. In short, we seek to create solutions with our families.
We strongly believe that the key to serving people experiencing homelessness, and income insecure families, is through coordinated action. FPGNB is an integral part of community solutions that includes shelter prevention programs, shelter, and after shelter follow-up care. Family Promise of Greater New Braunfels is proud to see our community come together to make this a place we can all call home.