Obispo, Stacey L.
In 2011, there were 46.2 million individuals in the United States that were living in poverty (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014). The majority of these individuals are renters. Many of these low income individuals do not have enough money to scrape by for household items because 71% of low income renters devote more than half of their income for housing (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014) .Therefore many people with very low incomes have to remove the cost of housing from their expenses. Even more concerning is for the time being there is only rent subsidies available for only 24 % of households who are qualified to receive them(National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014). Consequently many individuals are left to face homelessness because of the lack of rent subsidies. This paper aims to address the issue of homelessness caused by unaffordable housing in America by examining the campaign for Restoring Housing Voucher Funding by the National Coalition for the Homeless. In addition, this paper will analyze the effectiveness of preventing homelessness by the use of the Housing Voucher Campaign and its promotion of Housing Voucher Funding known as section 8.
The purpose of National Coalition for the Homeless is to stop and end homelessness, make sure the immediate needs of individuals who are homeless are met, and their civil rights are protected (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014). The National Coalition for the Homeless is comprised of a system of people who are; presently homeless or have encountered homelessness, activists and advocates, community based and faith– based service providers, and others (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014). The National Coalition for the Homeless discusses the social issue of homelessness that affects many communities throughout the United States. They address the issue of homelessness by providing prevention and promotion initiatives and by also highlighting specific groups that are at risk such as families, youths, the elderly, veterans and individuals who identify themselves as LGBT. For example, the National Coalition for the Homeless (2014) has several campaigns to address prevention and promotion initiatives such as: The National Campaign for Youth Shelter, Restoring Housing Voucher Funding, Hate Crimes and Violence Prevention, Homeless Bill of Rights, You Don’t Need a Home to Vote, Bringing America Home Campaign and Homeless People’s Action Network.
Protective and Risk Processes
Protective processes for Restoring Housing Voucher Funding campaign is sought by strengthening the lines of communication with policy makers. This is done by asking Congress to restore funding that was cut from housing vouchers in 2013 and building a stronger grassroots network that can request change for the millions of people who need housing assistance and are not receiving it (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014) .The risks processes the program is trying to weaken is unaffordable housing, poverty, and homelessness within all populations. The National Coalition for the Homeless (2014) seeks to lessen the risks of homelessness by including the provision of inexpensive housing and employment that pays a living wage.
The population that is being focused on in the Restoring Housing Voucher Funding campaign is individuals who make inadequate funds to meet escalating rents. This population is chosen by their socioeconomic class and all locations throughout the United States including urban, suburban, and rural areas are a part of the campaign. Individuals who are defined within this population are those with extremely low incomes that make no more than $19,706 annually (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2014). Nationally at this rate these individuals can only afford to spend no more than $493 a month on rent (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2014). However the national fair market rate has risen to $984 for a two bedroom and $788 for a one bedroom (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2014). Evidently there is a disparity of $491 a month for those in a two bedroom rental and a disparity of $ 295 a month for individuals in a one bedroom rental that must be met each month. A rental cost that an individual can afford is based on 30% of their income (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2014). Unfortunately in no state a full-time minimum wage worker cannot afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 and to be able to afford a two bedroom rental without interfering with other necessities (e.g. food, clothing, childcare, utilities) the renter needs to at least make $18.92 an hour (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2014).
A social system that safeguards against homelessness is parents/ families. Many parents allow their grown children and their families to live with them so that they can all afford to pay rent and basic necessities. This is called doubling up. Religious settings and community organizations offer ways to help with homelessness by offering shelters for those who are unable to afford housing (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014).
Social systems that contribute to the problem of homelessness in the United States are the rising costs to health care (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014). Many times individuals with very low incomes have to choose between going to the doctor and paying rent. Many individuals who face homelessness need medical and mental health services.
Some workplaces also contribute to the problem of homelessness. Workplaces which offer employees minimum wage contribute toward the problem because they cannot afford the cost of rent. Many of these individuals have to work two jobs or more than 80 hours a week to afford life’s basic necessities (National Coalition for the Homeless, 2014).
The ecological level of analysis the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) produced in their article shows that homelessness affects the individual, microsystems, organizations, localities and macrosytems. This article is a part of the resources used at the National Coalition for the Homeless website regarding their Restoring Housing Voucher Funding campaign. The article’s focus is on homeless persons and how the various ecological levels contribute to the problem and how they can help. The article offers suggestions on ways supportive housing (individual) can actually produce savings for federal (macrosytem), state, and local governments (localities) comparatively to emergency shelters (organizations) and institutionalized care for the homeless. For instance they found that in one year assigning high cost hospital patients in Los Angeles into everlasting supportive housing lead to a net public cost evasion of almost $32,000 per person .This sum even includes the costs for housing subsidies and housing placement. The article further addresses how individuals are affected by the government sequester cuts which resulted into many individuals losing voucher assistance. Microsystems are addressed in the article by pointing out how many families and individual face homelessness due to struggles with substance abuse, mental illness, or domestic violence.
Overall the aim of the article is to provoke debate over government policy and increase funding and assistance programs to aid in the problem with homelessness. Although the article addresses how homelessness affects the individual, microsystems, organizations, localities its primary focus is its emphasis through the macrosytem- government. It seems appropriate to target the macrosystem of government because government policy can ensure that change can be affected nation -wide.
Prevention and Promotion
Prevention according to National Coalition for the Homeless (2009) can be obtained by closing the gap between income and housing costs. This type of prevention responds to predictable life circumstances such as being able to afford life’s basic necessities and affording health care .In order for such a change to be completed the National Coalition for the Homeless (2009) states that government, labor, and the private sectors need to unite. They further conclude that when such can be completed all Americans who work can then have an opportunity to get employment that would pay a livings wage along with necessary support such as child care and transportation to maintain it.
Promotion of housing assistance and supportive services can offer individuals facing homelessness an opportunity to obtain self –sufficiency according to The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014). The way this is completed is by addressing the root causes of poverty. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) found that programs that offer housing assistance along with supportive services can make significant changes in individuals and give these individuals an opportunity to get themselves out of poverty by addressing poverty causes. The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) state past results have shown it is possible to impact and make changes in individuals needing supportive housing. This is completed through improved employment and salaries amongst those of legal working age along with on-site job hubs where individuals can get job search help and appointments to vocational training. The next recommendation they offer is to supply adjusted rent rules so that these low income individuals can grow their earnings without worrying that their rents will also increase. The Final recommendation they give is to encourage neighbor-to-neighbor contact amongst low income individuals. By encouraging conversation these individuals can communicate about the news of job opportunities within the neighborhood and inspire community upkeep towards finding work.
Social Injustice and Small Wins
The article by The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) focuses on the social issue of poverty and homelessness. The article addresses its social injustice by pointing out that 19.3 million are eligible for assistance but only 4.4 million receive support due to lack of federal funding for voucher programs. Small wins in prevention and promotion would be to offer families and individuals who have a very low income; free childcare, vocational training and paid apprenticeships so that they can catapult themselves out of poverty and reduce their risk towards homelessness.
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) reported on a study on Jobs-Plus for their prevention of homelessness and promotion intervention of housing assistance with supportive services. The U.S. Department of Public Housing Planned the intervention between 1998 and 2003 on six public housing developments across the country (HUD.GOV). Individuals living within these units met the criteria for very low incomes. The Jobs -Plus program is not a national program available in every community only selected communities are chosen.
Individuals that are involved in the program are able to make decisions as to what jobs they want to apply for (HUD.GOV). Sensitivity to the context of individuals living with low incomes is considered because Jobs- Plus offers opportunities such as employment centers to help search for gainful employment, referrals to job training so these individuals can select a career that will offer a higher income, and adjusted rent rules to help these individuals afford rent(HUD.GOV).. Stake holders included in the program are HUD, an association of foundations, and private funders (HUD.GOV).
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) reported that an arduous evaluation of the Jobs-Plus program was conducted and found a meek but long-term increase in salaries for individuals within the program at the various locations where the program was available. The Manpower Demonstration Research Corporation (MDRC) is a nonprofit organization that specializes in the evaluation of employment and welfare-to-work strategies, MDRC provides technical assistance and designs and implements Job- plus plans over a 5-year period (HUD.GOV). MDRC evaluates the long term effects in each Job-plus sites approach to Jobs-plus residents, communities, families, public housing developments, and the lessons learned from other experiences by other sites (HUD.GOV). MDRC is funded by HUD, the Rockefeller Foundation, and other public agencies and charities (HUD.GOV).
In each site MDRC randomly evaluates one housing development that is randomly selected (through a type of lottery) to operate Jobs-Plus from a matched pair or triplet of eligible public housing developments nominated by the local public housing authority(Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). The remaining housing development groups are assigned as comparison groups (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005).Long term data and trends are recorded to evaluate the program’s effectiveness. The data was retrieved from administrative records of government agencies for up to six years before and six years after Jobs-Plus was launched in 1998(Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005).In addition residents that participated in the program partook in surveys which evaluated their experiences with economic and material well-being, social conditions, personal safety, residential satisfaction, and child well-being. Job-plus made a difference in participants lives because living conditions were very difficult in both Jobs-Plus and comparison developments before the initiative was introduced. (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005).
The intervention of Job-Plus programs shows that it aids in making sure that the very low income population are not homeless while they are enrolled in the program. One of the objectives clearly met by the program was to increase the wages of participants (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). The findings state that participants on average increased their wages by 6.2 % while others who did not partake in the program had no increase (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). The study found that individuals who partook in the program sustained their income over time. The intervention was only effective in settings in which the Job-Plus program was used. Other comparison groups had no change (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). In sum the Jobs-Plus program is only effective if the full program is adhered to not just excerpts of it(Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). Another objective was to drop the amount of welfare recipients (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005). This objective was not met because after Jobs-Plus was launched there was a decline however the decline was not related to Jobs-Plus (Bloom, Riccio, & Verma, 2005).
The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University (2014) authored an article which stated the Jobs-Plus program is an effective tool that gives individuals living in poverty tools to aid against homelessness. The authors are correct that this can be an effective tool because it aids in helping individuals get into vocational schools, encourages community contact with neighbors, and helps individuals find gainful employment. The important findings these authors present are that housing vouchers can be a good temporary protective aid against homelessness. Important inquiries the Jobs-Plus programs raises: When Job-Plus programs are introduced into communities, why not introduce the program along with positive beliefs systems to match not just community culture but cultures within the different ethnicities that reside in these communities? Another important question to consider: Why not make the Jobs-Plus program mandatory for all individuals that receive aid that are not disabled neighborhoods?
An area for concern that is not addressed by the authors is that the Jobs-Plus program may not be an effective tool in preventing homelessness for everyone. This tool is only effective if individuals who want to help themselves. If one just wants to stay on welfare, receive housing vouchers, and buy into negative belief systems that keep them impoverished then tools such as Jobs-Plus will not be an aid. Coming out of poverty does not just take a hand-up it takes desire, will, and ambition. Increasing wages by 6.2 % is a change in a positive direction but the change is still minimal and not enough to place one in middle class. Despite this change these individuals are at risk for homelessness because they are still considered to have a low income. Perhaps now their income maybe not is on the very low side after the 6% increase nonetheless they are still at risk.
Bloom, H., Riccio, J. A., & Verma, N. (2005). Promoting work in public housing: The effectiveness of jobs-plus. Retrieved from http://www.mdrc.org/publication/promoting-work-public-housing
HUD.GOV. (2014). Jobs-plus community revitalization initiative. Retrieved from http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/programdescription/jobsplus
Joint Center for Housing Studies Harvard University. (2014). America’s rental housing-evolving market and needs: Rental housing assistance. Retrieved from http://www.jchs.harvard.edu/research
National Coalition for the Homeless. (2009). Employment and homelessness. Retrieved from http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/economic-justice/
National Coalition for the Homeless. (2014). Restoring housing voucher funding. Retrieved from http://nationalhomeless.org/campaigns/restoring-housing-voucher-funding/
National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2014). Out of reach 2014: Twenty-five years later the housing crisis continues. National Low Income Housing Coalition, 248.Retrieved from: http://nlihc.org/oor/2014