There is no single cause of homelessness. The term “the homeless” is merely an umbrella term that covers many different problems and cracks in society’s safety net. There are, however, some distinguishable factors that often contribute to persons becoming and remaining homeless.
Lack of Affordable Housing
With rental prices soaring, it is becoming increasingly difficult for low-income renters to afford their monthly rent. Because of this, many individuals and families with low income are facing evictions. In addition, rising energy costs make it extremely difficult for many individuals and families to pay their utility bills.
Housing and utility prices are rising at an alarming rate, but wages for low-wage workers stay consistently low. The “housing wage” in the County is $18.13 an hour. A housing wage is the amount a worker must earn per hour in order to be able to work 40 hours per week and afford a two-bedroom unit at the area’s fair market rent. This hourly wage of $18.13 is 352% of the current minimum wage.
Alcohol and Drug addiction affect people from all walks of life. Addiction is a problem with which many people who are homeless are struggling. Living on the street or in a shelter is rarely conducive to working through a program of recovery.
Many people who are homeless suffer from severe and persistent mental illness. Mentally ill persons with low income have limited access to psychiatrists, therapists, and supportive housing. Many persons with mental illnesses can be stabilized with medication, but the high cost of this medication is often restrictive for people who are homeless and have no health insurance.
Job or Income Loss
Many families and individuals are only one check away from entering homelessness. The loss of employment of the major wage earner in a household could cause the family to become homeless.
Re-entry after incarceration is particularly difficult for people who have few social supports and little financial means. Restrictions on employment and housing make it difficult for ex-offenders to reenter the job force and attain permanent housing.
Minority Sexual Orientation
According to a study conducted in 2002 by the University of Washington, adolescents who self identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender “left home more frequently, were victimized more often, used highly addictive substances more frequently, [and] had higher rates of psychopathology” than those who identified as heterosexual. It is estimated that between 20 and 40 percent of all homeless youth identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.