For those who have never experienced homelessness, the path to losing your home can be hard to imagine. Many assume homelessness happens as a result of poor decision-making. The truth is far more complex and often comes as a direct result of our flawed, inequitable system. Everyone has a unique path to homelessness, but what often connects people’s experience is a lack of understanding, guidance, and services from institutions and individuals to prevent them from ending up there in the first place. The list below details the most cited causes of homelessness for families.
1. Lack of affordable housing
Topping the list is the most basic of reasons people experience homelessness – a simple lack of available and inexpensive housing. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is a shortage of more than 7 million affordable homes in the United States for a total of over 11 million extremely low-income families. With those numbers, it is no surprise that increased access to affordable housing would be the best and most cost-efficient method to reduce the number of people experiencing homelessness across the nation.
A lack of a reliable source of income can affect one’s ability to maintain the most primary needs from sustenance to housing to a basic education among other necessities. Losing one’s job leads to not only a loss of financial security but a long list of other hardships that make it that much more difficult to find employment.
The 2021 national poverty level for a family of four is $26,500. With a lack of finances, families must make difficult decisions on where to allocate their limited funds. With housing often taking up such a high percentage of income, it may have to go by the wayside in favor of necessities like food or healthcare. There is a clear connection between poverty and homelessness that makes it difficult to overcome without assistance.
A lack of affordable housing, job loss, and underfunded programs are the true culprits that perpetuate our national homelessness crisis. By investing more time and money into affordable housing, shelter, and prevention programs and changing the way we view poverty, family homelessness is a solvable issue. Recognizing the most common central causes of homelessness takes us one step closer to addressing these issues and recognizing that the battle to end family homelessness is attainable.