We want to take time to highlight some aspect of homelessness that our friends and supporters may not know about in a regular “I Had No Idea” post. The truth is that the face of homelessness is changing, and most of us would be surprised to know how much we have in common with people who are either facing homelessness or who are at risk of becoming homeless in the near future.
FORECLOSURES AND HOMELESSNESS…In October 2009, the New York Times featured an article about the growing number of Americans who have been forced to turn to shelters after surrendering their homes to foreclosure. One woman they interviewed named Sheri used to run a shelter for homeless people. She never thought in a million years that she would one day check into a shelter herself. Prior to the housing disaster and economic crises of the past two years, foreclosure was rarely a reason for people to be homeless, but now, according to a 2009 report by the National Coalition for the Homeless, at least 1 in 10 homeless people had lost their homes to foreclosure. In our state, due to high unemployment along with the real estate bust, the incidents of homelessness due to foreclosure are even higher. What often comes as a surprise is that many people who are homeless due to foreclosure were actually renters whose landlords fell behind on their mortgage payments. Renters are particularly vulnerable because they are thrown out of their homes on short notice (most don’t know anything is wrong until the foreclosure notice goes up on the front door). Often they are living on lower income and have little savings. Most people stay with friends or relatives as long as possible, even sleeping in their cars for months at a time before finally landing in a shelter. Many are humiliated and frustrated, not sure where to turn next. When surveyed by the National Coalition for the Homeless, one woman wrote:
“This should not be happening. We were the middle class and now we are poverty-stricken. We had two cars, money in the bank and a reasonable mortgage. My husband is an electrician and simply cannot find a job anywhere. On September 12, 2008, my husband’s company sent everyone home. The company could no longer afford to pay their employees. We have had no money coming in since then and absolutely no prospects. Our savings is all gone . . . our home is being auctioned off. So much for the American Dream.”
This aspect of homelessness is a surprise to most people. Do you know of anyone who’s experienced this? What surprised you most about the problem? Does this change your perception of homelessness? Please pray for our neighbors who are losing their jobs and struggling to keep their homes.
Steve McRee Executive Director, Shepherd’s Gate