For those of us who have never experienced homelessness, it is easy to assume homelessness is a choice. The truth is: the reasons why people fall into homelessness are complex. Rarely does someone choose to give up the safety, comfort, and stability a home provides. With that said, here are three reasons why people fall into homelessness.
1. Lack of Affordable Housing
Homelessness is a symptom of the affordable housing crisis. In the U.S. there is a shortage of more than 7 million homes for over 10.8 million low-income families, and this crisis is only growing. Median household sales prices have been growing at a faster rate than median household income since 2011, and 20.4 million renters are cost burdened by their housing expenses. So long as this inaccessibility to affordable housing exists, so will homelessness.
2. Other Structural Failures
In a country where housing costs 1 in 7 households more than half their income, structural failures that incur additional expenses act as a slippery slope into homelessness. These failures include a lack of economic downturns, stagnant wages, inaccessibility to healthcare, and discriminationary housing practices. These circumstances make it challenging for families and individuals to secure food, education, and other life-sustaining services. Without these essential services, securing housing is impossible.
3. Individual Circumstances
Each situation of homelessness is unique. For instance, families experiencing homelessness may be fleeing domestic abuse, a trauma 90% of mothers experiencing homelessness will endure in their lifetime. In a situation like that, homelessness–while never an ideal choice–may be the best option. Recognizing that every family or individual experiencing homelessness is making decisions based off their distinct circumstances is critical to understanding the challenge of homelessness in America.
The idea that homelessness is a choice is a myth. Homelessness is a complex problem comprised of societal failures and individual circumstances that leave no better alternatives. That’s why Family Promise works to keep you informed, and supports families experiencing homelessness.