Last week, Family Promise of Waukesha County polled our newsletter and social media followers about why they believe people in our community are homeless. We had 43 responses, and below are the results:
A majority of participants named lack of low-income housing or housing costs. We agree! As the number of phone calls for shelter increases, we are aware that one of the issues is that the cost of rent has significantly increased. A recent study showed that rent has increased by 9.2% in 2021. One family requesting rent relief is currently paying $1600 a month. This is more than many homeowners are paying for their mortgage. Not only is the cost of apartments out of reach for many, but the number of apartments available has also gone down significantly. One landlord shared that they receive 100 calls a day for available apartments.
Tied to the lack of affordable housing is eviction. Evictions are not only a symptom of poverty, they are a major cause of poverty. Families that get evicted typically will not even be considered by landlords for housing. Even an eviction filing (e.g. due to a single late payment) can follow a person for years. While many landlords have access to attorneys, close to 9 out of 10 tenants do not have representation. If we care about families, we need to have conversations about what evictions and homelessness are doing to families.
Developing a consensus around the nature of the problem is important so that as a community we can all get behind a solution. And while the majority in our survey feel that housing costs and lack of affordable housing contribute to homelessness, do we have the will to advocate for affordable or low-income housing? When this is discussed in many municipalities, opposition to low-income housing is based around the belief that low-income housing equals crime or lowering of property values. NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) is real. If low-income housing is to become a reality, we will have to cut through the myths and biases that are often associated with those experiencing homelessness or are living in poverty.
These are complicated issues -- another reason to join us for the Bridges out of Poverty dialogue on October 27th.
This article suggests shoring up the Section 8 Housing voucher program could be the best solution to ending homelessness.