Rising rent and food costs are pushing some Americans into homelessness and making it harder for social services to help them stay on the streets, homeless advocates say.
Proponents cite a 2020 study by the Government Accountability Office which found that rent increases of $100 per month were associated with a 9% increase in homelessness. For those who depend solely on a monthly disability check of $1,150 from Social Security, a $100 increase in rent can be devastating, they say.
“Social Security just doesn’t keep up with inflation,” said JC Orton, coordinator of Night on the Streets Catholic Worker in Berkeley, Calif. “What seemed like a reasonable amount of money is not today.”
In Washington, DC, Dan Kerns, executive director of the Father McKenna Center, said his social services charity had reached capacity, with 1,000 people seeking groceries amid a spike in food insecurity. .
Donations have held steady, but pantry meat costs have risen 10-15% and the average number of daily visitors has increased 30% over the past two months, Kerns said.
“Our customers experience the impact of inflation like everyone else, but in a different way. The idea of getting housing is becoming more and more distant,” he said. “The number of asylum-seeking migrants arriving on buses from border states is also putting increased pressure on already taxed facilities.”
Record rents and a historic housing shortage have made it nearly impossible for homeless people to find single-occupancy apartments in many cities, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness.
The non-profit advocacy group says older people are most at risk of homelessness due to a combination of fixed incomes, rising rents and higher food prices.
“The housing market is incredibly tight right now,” CEO Ann Oliva told NPR’s “Morning Edition.” “We’re seeing vacancy rates at record highs for rentals, especially for affordable rental units.”
Nationally, the annual inflation rate jumped 8.2% in September. Rent rose nearly 20% from March 2020 to March 2022 nationwide, Realtor.com reported.
The Associated Press reported this month that homelessness has increased by 70% in some cities over the past two years, with tent camps becoming more common in busy public areas.
“Inflation makes it more expensive to help the homeless, makes economically vulnerable people more likely to become homeless than before, and reduces a city’s resources to deal with the crisis,” said the economist Wayne Winegarden, senior fellow at the Pacific Research Institute in California. .