Why are people homeless?
The simple answer to the question is that due to an affordable housing shortage people become homeless.
Affordable rent is the generally accepted standard of not paying more than 30% of income for rent. In the state of Pennsylvania, for an individual collecting social security income (SSI) of $603, affordable rent would be $181 yet fair market rent (FMR) for a one bedroom apartment is $630 ($773 for a one bedroom and $923 for a two bedroom in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties).
In order to afford the FMR for a 2 bedroom apartment, a person in these PA counties needs to earn $17.75 an hour and a person earning minimum wage needs to work 138 hours per week! Please check the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s Website for more information on this issue.
However, Homeless is not that simple and there are many complex issues that also contribute to the crisis. Some of the systemic issues include housing costs, employment and wages, health care, childcare, and transportation. There are also personal barriers that can contribute such as, but not limited to: addiction, chronic illness, and mental illness.
Please check the urban dot org web site for more information. According to Martha Burt from the Urban Institute dot org, personal vulnerabilities such as mental and physical illness and addiction are risk factors for homelessness, but alone cannot cause it.
It is only when the systemic issues are already in place that personal vulnerabilities lead to homelessness.
How many people are homeless?
This report also states that since homelessness is a temporary rather than permanent condition and most homeless counts are reported by service providers, attempts to count are both difficult and an underestimation. Additionally, not all homeless people contact or utilize services; therefore are not counted. Finally, since homeless counts are conducted on a particular date and time individuals and families not on the street or in a shelter at that time are not counted.
Two important trends noted are: The increase in shelter and transitional beds available for homeless people and the increase in the requests for beds (and denials due to lack of space) NATIONALLY.
In the past two decades, actual beds have more than tripled; however, requests still continue to out pace supplies.