THE PROBLEM

Nearly 9 percent of children in the U.S. are living in a family at half or below the poverty line

– well under $9,500 a year for a family of three. Even as the economy continues to improve, many American workers are still struggling to make ends meet. For millions of households, housing costs account for more than half of the household’s monthly income. And even though the share of working households with a severe housing cost burden fell in 2012, housing affordability remains a severe challenge for millions of working individuals and families. (Center for Housing Policy) Although all socioeconomic groups are affected by housing insecurity, low-income households are particularly at risk because of their already constrained financial resources and lack of reserve funds. Low-income families often pay a larger proportion of their income for housing than do higher-income households, which decreases the resources available for other necessities such as food, transportation, heat, and medical care.1 (US Housing Insecurity and the Health of Very Young Children) While many other issues often factor into the equation, these families are, for the most part, burdened by high housing costs, poor housing quality, unstable neighborhoods, overcrowded living conditions, residential mobility, and episodes of recurrent homelessness. Furthermore, although research has demonstrated that homeless families with children have essentially the same housing and service needs as their low-income, housed counterparts, public policy and practice continue to promote separate housing and services systems for homeless and at risk families; this practice is often itself detrimental to child and family well-being.  Aggravating the problem is the fact that parents often  fail to ask for help during a housing-related or financial crisis because they are embarrassed, overwhelmed, or simply depressed and immobilized. For many families, the result is extended periods of housing instability, disrupting every aspect of family life and resulting in poor outcomes for diverse service delivery systems addressing non-housing service needs. In other words, education; health and mental health; employment; and family functioning in general all suffer when a family unit is denied access to a stable housing base.

 

 

1 US Housing Insecurity and the Health of Very Young Children