The hot summer air is filled with laughter and shout of joy as the children play in the public fountain. Seated on a bench nearby, their mother watches attentively. Her son and daughter dart in and out of the water. She rises to her feet and calls out time to go to Mickey D’s. Kids exclaim as all kids do “do we have to” “Yes” she replies. She dries them off with an old tee shirt she pulls out of her backpack then puts dry tee shirts on them as they walk off to catch the next bus heading their way. Forty five minutes, twelve stops and one transfer later they walk into Mickey D’s, its fifty cent burger night. Mom feeds her and the kids for $5. They clean up in the bathroom, and then head out into the night to find a safe place to sleep under the bridge by the river. This true story of a mother and her children is just one story among the 3.5 million homeless stories in America every year (with 1.5 million being under the age of 18). One of the leading causes of homelessness in America is Affordable Housing. So, since when did a public fountain and Mickey D’s constitute a shower and bathroom and a bridge becomes a roof over your head?
Homelessness eats away at the very heart of families. The US Conference of Mayors in their 2006 report found that in a majority of cities in America families must break up in order to be sheltered. Furthermore homeless children are 12 times more likely to end up in foster care; with 30% of those children unable to be returned to their parent(s) due to a lack of housing. Homelessness also puts children at a much greater risk of suffering from anxiety disorders, psychological trauma, and even victims of violence according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.
The Political Left and Right can argue all day long over the definition of poverty in America but, homeless is homeless. It doesn’t matter whether you’re doubled up, Couch Surfing, dumpster diving, Emergency Shelter or under a bridge. If you don’t have a home and you’re doing whatever it takes to get and keep a roof over you and yours head you’re homeless.
A strong economy can cause an increased demand for housing; increased demand for housing drives up both residential and rentals pricing. Sadly in spite of an economic boom, those families just barely hanging on now are burdened with outrageous housing cost or worse are now homeless. The increased housing cost lays the seeds for an inevitable housing bust. The housing bust causes and increase in housing foreclosures which leads to an increase demand for rentals putting even more upward pricing pressure on the rental market forcing even more families into homelessness. Affordable housing is the only long term solution to family homelessness.
In a report by The Center for Housing Policy “The Role of Affordable Housing in Creating Jobs and Stimulating Local Economic Development: A Review of the Literature” by Keith Wardrip, Laura Williams, and Suzanne Hague January 2011 they identified a number of points in regards to affordable housing development
The positive impact the initial development of Affordable Housing Creates both Immediate and Long-Term Employment Opportunities and Spending in the Local Economy
The Development and Rehabilitation of Affordable Housing Provides Immediate Fiscal Benefits for States and Localities
Homebuyers Who Participate in Affordable Homeownership Programs Are Less Likely to Experience Foreclosure Than Buyers Who Do Not Participate in Such Programs, Thereby Reducing Sometimes Significant Foreclosure-Related Costs for Municipalities
Affordable Housing Can Affect an Employer’s Ability to Attract and Retain Employees and Can Thus Have Implications for Regional Economic Competitiveness
In Addition to its Direct Effects, the Development of Affordable Housing Can Improve a Locality’s Fiscal and Economic Conditions in a Number of Indirect Ways
Public/Private Sector Partnerships providing for affordable housing development programs that serve families leading to home ownership or affordable rental offer the only long term solution to homelessness. Increasing the range of housing opportunities for low income (homeless) families offers communities a socio-economic Win-Win. Affordable Housing is not socio-economic class welfare. Affordable Housing projects are in fact a investment which yield both immediate and long term rewards. Those projects not suffering from short sighted vision will yield positive generational returns. In short that means that the next time you hear children laughing and splashing in a park fountain they will be playing not bathing.