It could be the tired-looking woman bagging your groceries or the twenty-something making your Big Mac. Maybe it’s the man holding the furniture liquidation sign at the intersection near the mall. It may or may not be the tired soul standing at the exit ramp who is “absolutely desperate.”
A few statistics: According to the 2006 Wilder Research study, an average of 28% of homeless people are working. 36% of adults in transitional housing (vs. staying in a shelter or under a bridge or in a car) are working. Of those punching the clock full-time, 64% earned under $10 an hour. According to apartmentratings.com, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Twin Cities is $842. At $10 an hour (before taxes), over half of a person’s income would go to a one-bedroom. Financial advisors generally tell us that one third of our income should go towards our housing.
“In 2007, the families who entered our transitional housing program had an average income of $692 per month,” says Wendy Wiegmann, Simpson Housing Director of Programs. “It is safe to say that without rental assistance, these families would still be living in a shelter.” Then there is the challenge of landing the apartment. If you find yourself unemployed and without a home, you usually can’t get one without the other. Upfront costs to finding a place can be a major roadblock, often equaling at least the first month’s rent. Even an application fee can be too much for many. Poor or no rental history are also strikes against you.
“I am currently working with a man who is employed as a financial planner,” says Amy Stroman, a Rapid Exit Advocate with Simpson Housing. Rapid Exit is a program that works at expediting the process of moving men and women from the shelter to permanent housing. “Although he is working and making around $18,000 a year, he has almost 20 U.D.s on his record, although most of them are being expunged. (A U.D. or unlawful detainer is filed with the county by the landlord and can lead to an eviction.) Landlords are understandably wary when they see this kind of rental history. But many are also willing to give someone a chance if they can see a reason for a new, positive change in behavior, such as treatment for drug or alcohol problem. This is the case with this particular client.”
People experiencing homelessness are not just under bridges or in distant shanty towns. They are living, working and trying to find their way alongside you and me in the community.