In a report released Wednesday morning by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, a 3 percent rise is homelessness and a 20 percent increase in foreclosures from 2008 to 2009 both added to a 12 percent increase in the number of families who were forced to “double up” or move into the homes of their extended family and friends.
“We are seeing that, with a large percentage of families that enter the homeless system, their last previous address was doubled up with another family,” said Nan Roman, president of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “So this obviously can be a precursor to homelessness, and the fact that it went up 12 percent in 2009 is obviously really alarming.”
Our country’s homeless population grew by another 20,000 people from 2008 to 2009, according to the NAEH report. 31 out of 50 US states saw an increase in their homeless counts while the homeless population in Louisiana nearly doubled. The report suggested that 4 in 10 homeless people were found to be living on the street, in a car, or in another place not intended for human habitation.
President of the NAEH Nan Roman has stated that up until 2009, the number of homeless and families forced to double up had been decreasing since 2005, due in large part to a big push to improve the U.S. homeless assistance system by moving it away from band-aid strategies, such as shelters and soup kitchens, and more toward lasting solutions. But even improvements in the system could not overcome the double whammy effect of lingering unemployment and high housing costs on the working poor.
A major problem facing these “doubled-up” families is that they are currently not eligible for federal assistance through the primary homeless housing programs.
A bill introduced to Congress by Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) last week, The Homeless Children and Youth Act, would expand the definition of “homeless” and how it currently applies to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. This is being done in hopes that more children living doubled up and in hotels would be eligible for its homeless assistance programs.
“During the 2008-2009 school year, over 72 percent or approximately 956,914 children and youth who were identified as homeless by the Department of Education did not qualify for housing support under HUD’s current definition,” said Biggert’s office in a release.
“So far, federal assistance has been inadequate to meet the needs of homeless and doubled-up families”, said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
“It is time for our lawmakers, and the public, to treat homelessness like the human rights crisis it is,” she said. “In the new Congress, rather than cutting safety net funds, we must focus on adding more funding for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing.”