Every morning on our commute either to school or work we would encounter someone asking for change or sleeping on the subway car. We assume that they are homeless.
However, someone is not only considered homeless if they lack a fixed place of residence, anyone living in a temporary residence is also considered homeless.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 206,286 families are homeless in January 2015, making up of about 36 percent of the homeless population.
My uncle’s family would be considered homeless because they currently doubling up with another family.
Family homelessness affects both the adults and children. Even when parents work long hours to support the family they may still face difficulties in making ends meet. Homelessness often results in family members being separated from each other.
The shelter system has a policy in which mothers and young children will be taken in by the shelter, whereas adolescent boys and any other adult male family member will have to seek shelter elsewhere, according to the study led by Laura Gültekin at the University of Michigan, “Voices From the Street,” published in the Journal of Family Nursing in 2014.
Children affected by homelessness are exposed to at least one violent situation in the shelters, leading to a greater acceptance of violence, as well as a decline in development and academic performance.
The children experiencing nutritional deficiencies are more likely to be sick compared to other children.
One way to help reduce family homelessness is for more affordable housing. The lack of affordable housing causes family homelessness.
In New York, the average hourly wage required to rent a one-bedroom apartment is $25.67 or an annual wage of $53,401. An individual earning the minimum wage of $8.75 would have to work 117 hours per week to be able to afford one-bedroom housing, as reported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition in “Out of Reach 2015: Low Wages & High Rents Lock Renters Out.”
Mayor De Blasio’s plan of creating 80,000 affordable housing units and maintaining 120,000 affordable housing units within 10-years will help families from being separated from each other during their difficult times. Mayor De Blasio’s plan will also provide children with a safer and healthier environment compared to shelters.
In March 2016, the affordable housing plan was passed by the New York City Council. The amount of affordable housing set aside will be about 20 percent to 30 percent of all the new units built. Those units are set aside at below market rate to be rented to individuals that make 40 percent to 60 percent of median income, which is $31,000 to $47,000, for a family of three.
Mayor De Blasio’s plan excludes families with income below $31,000. An alternative can be housing vouchers. In President Obama’s 2017 budget proposed $11 billion spending to combat family homelessness. It would provide housing vouchers, which would assist the families in obtaining affordable, safe, and clean housing. Families provided with housing vouchers experience a decline in future homelessness, a consistent place of living, and fewer child separation.
More affordable housing policies need to be in place to help alleviate the issue of family homelessness. Children are our future. Affordable housing allows families to be able to stay together and provide the children, a better environment with better health. Mayor De Blasio’s 10-year affordable housing plan is a step towards affordable housing. But it excludes individuals making less than $31,000. Housing vouchers are the solution for individuals below $31,000.
Mary Hu is an accounting and psychology student at Baruch College, New York. She has volunteered with New York Cares, preparing taxes for low-income families.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.