The main economic reasons behind homelessness are low-income or poverty and unaffordable housing. The rising prices of residential housing coupled with low wages force many families into living on the streets. According to the National Low Income Coalition, in order to afford adequate housing in Massachusetts one has to earn $24.62 per hour. In other states such as Washington, D.C. the number is $28.04, California $26.65, and New York $25.67 per hour. Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. These figures reveal a significant gap between the income of individuals earning minimum wage and the cost of housing. As a result to afford a one bedroom unit at minimum wage in Massachusetts, individuals have to work over 80 hours per week or over 16 hours per day. The situation is similar across the country – a minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment in any state. The numbers reveal that there is a severe lack of affordable housing in the United States. The gap between income and housing costs is one of the main drivers behind family homelessness.

Apart from the main economic factors there are other reasons that often force families into homelessness. A sudden serious illness in the family that requires a costly treatment can leave an entire family without an adequate shelter. Another reason is a divorce or a family dispute. The high costs associated with divorce settlements can push one or both family members and their children into homelessness. Domestic violence is another serious reason – a woman who decides to put an end to an abusive relationship often has nowhere to go. Victims of domestic violence go through a traumatic experience that further complicates their situation. These are some of the factors that can push entire families into living on the streets. Understanding the reason behind the problem of homelessness can better help us find adequate solutions that will lead to a more socially just public policy and end homelessness for the next generation.        


National Low Income Housing Coalition

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