About Family Homelessness

In Progress....

Families come to experience homelessness for a variety of factors, but if we look to the economy we can begin to put them together. Simply, incomes do not keep up with the high cost of housing. As a result, thousands of families are forced to choose between paying for housing and food, child care, health care, and education. Being poor in our Commonwealth means living at risk of becoming homeless.

Family homelessness is a national issue1

According to the Point in Time Count, on a single night in January 2013:

  • There were 222,197 homeless people in 70,960 families, representing 36% of all homeless people on a single night
  • People in families comprised nearly 50% of the total sheltered homeless population
  • Fifty-eight percent of all homeless people in families were under the age of 18. The same proportion of sheltered people in families were children and a slightly smaller share of unsheltered people in families was under 18 (52 percent or 15,953 people).
  • A similar share of people in families was between the ages of 18 and 24 across sheltered status (about 10 percent).
  • Just less than one-third (32 percent) of homeless people in families were 25 years of age or older. Nearly 50 percent of all homeless people in families were counted in five states: New York (46,195 or 21 percent), California (25,094 or 11 percent), Florida (16,503 or 7 percent), Massachusetts (12,335 or 6 percent), and Texas (8,857 or 4 percent)

Family homelessness in Massachusetts2

  • The Emergency Assistance Program, which supports contracts for emergency family shelters across the state, has seen a steady increase since fiscal year 2005.
  • To be eligibile for the EA Program, a family must meet certain criteria. For an understanding of eligibility, please refer to our flow chart.
  • Once determined eligible by DHCD, you will recieve your placement in an available unit, anywhere across the state. The three types of shelter placements are in a: Congrete shelter, scattered site, or motel room (used for overflow).
  • In July of 2004, there were 1,147 families in the EA system. By December 2014, there were 4,440 families residing in the EA system, with more than 2,000 of these families living in motels.
  • During Quarter 2 of FY14 (Oct-Dec) 3,109 families applied for EA, a 23% increase from Quarter 2 of FY13. In the same time period, 1,472 families were placed in shelters or motels in FY14- a 34% increase from Quarter 2 of FY13 .

Simply, Rent is Too High ...3,4

  • In the United States, the 2014 two-bedroom Housing Wage is $18.92. This national average is more than two-and-a-half times the federal minimum wage, and 52% higher than it was in 2000. In no state can a full-time minimum wage worker afford a one-bedroom or a two-bedroom rental unit at Fair Market Rent.
  • In Massachusetts, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,251. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $4,169 monthly or $50,029 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $24.05.
  • In Massachusetts, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.00. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, a household must include 3.0 minimum wage earner(s) working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two bedroom FMR affordable.
  • In Boston-Cambridge-Quincy HMFA, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,444. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities, without paying more than 30% of income on housing, a household must earn $57,760 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $27.77.
  • In Boston-Cambridge-Quincy HMFA, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $20.59 an hour. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 54 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.

And Wages are Too Low.5,6,7,8

  • Adjusted for inflation, the federal minimum wage peaked in 1968 at $8.56 (in 2012 dollars). Since it was last raised in 2009, to the current $7.25/hour, the federal minimum has lost about 5.8% of its purchasing power to inflation.
  • Productivity in the United States has grown by over 112% since 1968, yet the real wages of minimum wage workers have declined by almost 1% per year on average during this period, even while the educational levels of low-wage workers has increased. (EPI Briefing Paper # 251)
  • A single adult with just one preschool-age child would need to make at least $23 per hour to keep up with basic expenses plus child care. (Massachusetts Economic Independence Index 2010, Crittenton Women’s Union)
  • In Massachusetts, nearly half a million workers earn less than $11.00 per hour. This group represents more than one in six workers in Massachusetts, those who occupy the lowest end of the wage scale (Jan 2013).
  •  73 percent of workers earning the state minimum wage were 20 years or older, and 38 percent of employees earning less than $11 an hour worked full time (2013).

MA is spending less on housing and more on shelter9, 10, 11

  • In FY01, the Emergency Assistance program (EA) was funded at $65.4 million. In FY14, it was funded at $158.2 million, a 141.7% increase.
  • In FY90, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program was funded at 112.6 million. In FY14, it was funded at 58.6, a 49% decrease.

About homeless families

  • The typical sheltered homeless family is comprised of a mother in her late twenties with two children
  • 84% of families experiencing homelessness are female headed
  • Families of color are overrepresented in the homeless population
  • 53% of homeless mothers do not have a high school diploma
  • 29% of homeless families are working
  • 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe violence and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime; 63% report this abuse was perpetrated by an intimate partner
  • Homeless mothers have three times the rate of post traumatic stress disorder
  • About 50% of homeless mothers have experienced a major depressive episode since becoming homeless
  • Over one third of homeless mothers have a chronic physical health condition, and ulcers at four times the rate of other women
  • Children experiencing homelessness are sick four times more often than other children, including four times as many respiratory infections, twice as many ear infections, and five times more gastrointestinal problems
  • Children experiencing homelessness have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children
  • 36% of homeless children repeat a grade

Links to Solutions

Sources:

1. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: The Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress
2. The Department of Housing and Community Development: Emergency Assistance Quarter 2 Report
3. National Low-Income Housing Coalition: Out of Reach 2014
4: The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: FMR Documentation System
5. The Pew Research Center: Facts about the Minimum Wage
6. National Employment Law Project: MA Summary
7. Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center: Minimum Wage Effects
8.Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center: Who is Affected by Minimum Wage?
9. Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center: Budget Browser
10. CHAPA: A Study of the Appropriate Operating Costs for MA State-Funded Public Housing
11.Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center: Shelter and Housing for Homeless Families

 


National Alliance to End Homelessness’ FACT CHECKER SERIES. Available at www.endhomelessness.org
Burt, M. et al, 1999a
National Low Income Housing Coalition. (2013). Out of Reach 2013. Available at www.nlihc.org
The National Center on Family Homelessness (2011). The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness. Available at www.familyhomelessness.org
Department of Transitional Assistance (2008)
Crittenton Women’s Union 2007. Unlocking the Doors to Higher Education and Training for Massachusetts’ Working Poor Families (2007) Available at www.liveworkthrive.org
CHAPA (2002)
MA State Government (2008) FY2009 Budget (2008). Available at www.mass.gov
The National Center on Family Homelessness (2008) The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness (2008). Available www.familyhomelessness.org