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  • Writer's pictureJim Strawn

How do People Become Homeless?

From: How Stuff Works

By: Stephanie Watson

This article by Stephanie Watson in How Stuff Works, is very informational.

We at Roark-Sullivan thank you for your work.

It’s hard to imagine how someone can go from having a home one day to being out on the street the next. Many homeless people start out with jobs and stable residences, but then social and economic factors intervene, causing a rapid change in their living situation.

The two biggest factors driving homelessness are poverty and the lack of affordable housing. In 2004, 37 million people, or 12.7 percent of the American population was living in poverty, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless. Many of these people live from paycheck to paycheck with nothing saved in the bank. The loss of a job, an illness, or another catastrophic event can quickly lead to missed rent or mortgage payments and ultimately, to eviction or foreclosure.

Losing a job happens much more readily today than it did a few decades ago, when most people worked for the same company until retirement. The decline in manufacturing jobs, outsourcing of jobs to other countries, and an increase in temporary and part-time employment has nicked away at the foundations of what was once a more stable job market.

Jobs today are not only far less secure than they were in the past, but many also pay less when considering the rate of inflation. In the late 1960s, a minimum-wage job could sustain a family of three above the poverty line.

That isn’t the case today. In May 2007, Congress passed the first minimum wage increase in nearly a decade, from $5.15 to $7.25 an hour (by 2009). Say someone works 40 hours per week every week for the entire year at $7.25 per hour. That person will earn $15,080 per year— an income well below the $17,170 needed for a family of three to reach the poverty line. It’s certainly not enough to afford even the smallest apartment in one of America’s biggest cities. For example, consider New York— a recent report finds that an average one-room studio apartment costs $2,000 a month, or $24,000 a year. So, someone making minimum wage, working 40 hours every week— taking no vacation or sick time— misses the mark by almost $9,000!

Although an estimated 15 percent of homeless people do have jobs, they simply don’t earn enough to afford housing.

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