This week, the National Coalition for the Homeless recognizes National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, held every year in the week before Thanksgiving. It’s a powerful message and reminder of the realities of our world, as we prepare to celebrate the season with food and family at home.
But it’s also a reminder for me about why low-income housing projects continue to be central to my work. In many cases, the availability of affordable housing is the most important factor that can prevent a family from falling into homelessness – and it can be the first step toward someone regaining their footing and moving toward a better future.
But the opposite is also true – a lack of affordable housing in a community can lead directly to a rise in homelessness. And sadly, it seems we see those numbers increasing. According to the NCH:
- A majority of local and state homeless coalitions are witnessing an increase in homelessness in the wake of the 2007 foreclosure crisis.
- In 2014, a survey of cities by the US Conference of Mayors showed that 48% of cities reported an increase in homelessness, 39% showed a decrease, and 13% stayed the same.
- A survey of 24 cities showed that people remain homeless an average of seven months, however, 87% of cities reported that the length of time people are homeless has increased in recent years.
Helping people who have become homeless quickly find their way back into stable living situations – called “rapid re-housing” – is vitally important. Studies show that when you reduce the amount of time people and families remain homeless, you help minimize the most negative long-term effects of homelessness. Programs exist to help with rapid re-housing, but they cannot be successful without the availability of affordable housing in a community.
“Housing represents the fundamental base-solution to the problem of homelessness,” says the NCH. It seems simple, but it’s true. Strong communities need affordable housing to stay strong, and many families need affordable housing to stay together. And that’s something worth remembering in this season of giving thanks.