You’re single, no children and you rent. What would you do if you were faced with an eviction? You could call around to the various charitable organizations, churches, and local and Federal programs which have been created to prevent homelessness. Couldn’t you? You are due in court in two weeks for the eviction. Here’s what happens if you try to get some help in time to prevent your eviction and subsequent homelessness:
First you try the local programs. They have a waiting list and even if they could help you immediately, you would only get a small amount of money, say, $100. They give you another number to call. You’re told that program doesn’t have any more funds until the next month and you would have to jump through hoops for, again, around $100. I won’t bore you any further with the local, state, and Federal programs, which each give you the other’s phone number to call. Let’s face it, that initiative to prevent homelessness: it’s not working.
How about the charities? They’re a little better. Salvation Army and Catholic Charities have programs but you probably won’t get any immediate help because they have certain times of the month that they help people. Each month the money runs out and you run out of luck. Wait until next month. Usually these programs will help you only once per year.
You don’t belong to a church so most churches won’t help you or they just don’t have the money. The Catholic churches are under one big umbrella charity for rental assistance and again, you have to get to them before they run out of funds for the month. It’s first come, first served. Maybe they have ten slots for the month, but they get a couple thousand frightened people dialing their number every 10 seconds. It’s the same for Synagogues. What money they have each month goes quickly.
There are various reasons people can’t pay their rent but the majority just can’t afford the rent due to pay inequality and poverty . Loss of even one paycheck sets them back for months. Imagine you make only enough each month to pay the rent, utilities and not much more. Food is out of the question. Maybe you get food stamps, but they don’t cover laundry detergent, toilet paper. And the amount you get barely feeds you. That’s it. You have nothing else left. You borrow from Peter to pay Paul to put gas in your car. But, you can’t afford your car any longer so you have to let it go. Any additional expense, such as an illness and if you have large co-pays, can set you back even further or you just don’t go to the doctor. If you don’t have insurance because you lost your job, you do what the poor do: you go to the emergency room of a community hospital. It won’t be the only time you hear someone call you “indigent.”
There’s plenty of housing out there. People who make minimum wage or receive low wages, just can’t afford the rents that landlords are asking. A lot of cities have subsidized housing but just not enough. What’s out there is questionable. These are not the best places to live. You just might have to get used to the police coming by a great deal to bust drug dealers, car thieves, etc. You also have to contend with break-ins and neighbors under the influence who fall asleep with a cigarette or candle burning and they burn down your building.
There’s HUD but you might as well have yourself placed in suspended animation waiting for your turn on a very, very, long list. That’s if you qualify. It can be years before your name pops up. If you are disabled, then you might get in sooner, but disability is a whole other ball of wax.
So, you have your eviction notice and you go to court. The judge always rules in favor of the landlord unless you contend that the charges are bogus. Now, generally speaking, you have one week to pay up or get out before the Sheriff comes. You’re broke. You have no place to go. All your friends have reasons they can’t take you in. You have no family to speak of or they won’t or can’t help you. You can’t afford to put your life’s belongs in storage so you just leave everything behind and take only what you can carry. You had to turn your dog(s) or cat(s) into a pet shelter because homeless shelters won’t allow them and you just can’t take care of them any longer. Now, you have to look for a shelter that has an opening or sleep outdoors. You had to give up your car so you don’t even have the option of living in a car. You, dear reader, are now one of the 1.75 million homeless in this country. Oh, you couldn’t be reading this unless you are at a library. You no longer have a computer.
Homeless by the numbers :
1.75 million homeless (most likely underestimated)
44% single men
19% single women
36% families with children
Source: National Law Center Homelessness and Poverty (2014)