Why are families struggling to stay in their homes?
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Fair Market Rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Worcester is more than $1,200. With affordable housing defined as costing no more than 30% of your income, a single wage-earner would need to make at least $22.00 per hour, working 40 hours per week for 52 weeks per year to afford this. For families putting the majority of their income toward housing, lost work due to illness, an emergency repair for a car used for work, domestic violence and/or any number of other life hazards can be the final tipping point that makes them leave everything they have behind to seek shelter, causing pain and disruption to everyone.
How many families are experiencing homelessness?
The National Center on Family Homelessness reports that 2.5 million children (1 in 30) experience homeless each year in the United States. In Massachusetts, programs are in place to offer emergency shelter to families that qualify, and assistance to families moving from shelter to more permanent housing. Together with federal funding there are also programs that offer rental and utilities assistance in order to help prevent family homelessness from occurring.
For some families, a little assistance to get them back on their feet, access to safe, stable housing and a decent job are all that is needed to move them forward. For too many families, however, the struggle to overcome poverty is generational, combining with unsafe neighborhoods and a lack of educational, social and economic opportunity to almost certainly ensure continued instability.
The faces of family homelessness:
For many families experiencing homelessness, leaving their home is the last resort in a process that has already included significant stress and disruption. Looking for better work or cheaper living arrangements, many families have already moved from place to place during which their children have attended multiple schools, been sent to live with relatives or friends, etc., each change contributing to lower academic achievement.
As with each individual, every family has their own unique story. As Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness states, “by plac(ing) adult demands on child-sized shoulders,” the one thing that can be said about all families experiencing homelessness is that it is the children who often suffer the most…,(b)ut it is also the parent(s) who can feel shame, believing they have let their family down, wishing better for their children….”
To learn more:
- The National Alliance to End Homelessness
- Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
- Obstacles on the Road to Opportunity; Finding a Way Forward for the Children and Families of Massachusetts
- “Housing’s 30-Percent-of-income rule is nearly useless,” by Karen Weise
- “Hungry, Scared, Tired and Sick: How Homelessness Hurts Children”, Part 1 in a Series on Homelessness and Poverty in the Public Education System, written by Perry Firth, project coordinator, Seattle University’s Project on Family Homelessness and school psychology graduate student
- Homeless to Harvard: The Liz Murray Story