From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God's People


From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God's People




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According to a 2007 report from the Center for Housing Policy, American households, whether renting or owning, are under increased pressure to maintain housing. Between 1997 and 2005, the number of working families paying more than half their income for housing increased 87 percent, from 2.4 million to 4.5 million. When families living in severely inadequate or dilapidated housing are included, the total of working families with critical housing needs rises to 5.2 million nationally. Housing needs exist across “the housing landscape” from large to small metropolitan areas, in urban and suburban counties alike. While the problem is most acute on the West Coast (Los Angeles, Anaheim, and San Diego areas) and East Coast centers like New York and Miami, the pattern exists in all regions of the country. Moreover, critical housing needs worsened in twenty-seven of the thirty-one metropolitan areas studied.

This picture is complicated by the turmoil in the subprime mortgage market, whereby households are brought into home ownership with teaser mortgage rates, which then fluctuate upward, quickly putting payments out of reach. General sluggishness in the housing market makes selling difficult and forces many households into foreclosure, which is at an all-time high. Mortgage companies themselves are being forced into bankruptcy, making hundreds of their own employees vulnerable.

These and other factors put pressure on the already tight affordable rental housing market. When eviction or several moves force a choice between being housed and being able to meet other expenses, individuals and families seek alternatives—doubling up with family or friends, moving into a cheap motel, or living out of their car. Then, not knowing where else to turn, they appear at the doors of churches or other service providers seeking a handout, a meal, or a place to stay. Piecemeal responses to such appeals, while compassionate, do not address underlying problems and issues—and can actually impede progress toward permanent solutions.

A far better response is to help persons find a path toward a comprehensive plan to end their homelessness. Without such a plan, individuals and families remain in poverty and cycle in and out of homelessness. Unless it is addressed comprehensively, this cycle of poverty and homelessness will continue to the next generation.

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Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy

From Homelessness to Hope: Constructing Just, Sustainable Communities for All God's People