With the U.S. economy mired in the worst recession since the Great Depression, the number of families living on the streets is on the rise across America and further straining the budgets of already-strapped local governments.
In New York City, the homeless population increased 20 percent in the spring compared with the same period last year, according to The New York Times. Due to that, the city had expected 10,000 families to seek services at the citys shelters this summer. Already New York City is serving 9,420 families.
In Indianas largest county, Marion County, home of Indianapolis, the number of homeless families has increased 78 percent compared to last year, according to The Indianapolis Star.
According to The Times, the reason that homelessness rises during the summer months is twofold. One, landlords are less hesitant to evict renters in the warmer, summer months. Two, parents are more likely to willingly leave and not fight an eviction during the summer when their children are no longer attending school.
When schools open, families tend to stay where they are, Deronda Metz, the director of social services for the Salvation Army in Charlotte, told The Times. And when schools out, theyre told its time to go.
The most obvious reason for the increase in homelessness is a lack of employment. In June, the unemployment rate rose to a 26-year high of 9.5 percent. The average unemployed worker has been unable to find a job for an average of 24.5 weeks.
In addition, 8.9 million Americans are underemployed, meaning they are working less hours than they would like to be. Another 2.17 million Americans are discouraged workers, classified as such because they have given up on looking for work. All told, those numbers would push the unemployment rate to 16.5 percent if they were included in the Labor Departments figures.
Those most likely to end up living on the streets are low-income renters. To combat that, former Mayor of New York and Congressman Ed Koch and ex-White House spokesperson Bob Weiner are advocating that Congress expand housing with rent caps.
"When Congress legislated the Housing and Community Development Act in 1974, the original bill including the Koch amendment established that a family should pay no more than 15%-20% of income in federally assisted housing and that a voucher would cover the difference," Koch and Weiner wrote in an Op-Ed appearing in the New York Daily News.
"Over the years, this successful program has been whittled away by special interest groups and misdirected priorities. Many families pay upwards of 40% and 50% of their income because they cannot find an apartment that meets the established rent cap. The New York City Housing Authority reports there are 127,825 New York families on the wait list. It shouldn't surprise us that one very immediate consequence of all this is homelessness," they wrote.