Our nation is one of the richest in the world [IMF, 2022], but those riches are incredibly unevenly distributed. The wealthiest 1% of Americans enjoy 33% of national wealth. By comparison, the bottom 50% own a meager 3% of the pie [Federal Reserve].
A quarter of that group (13.5% of the nation) live below the poverty line - a staggering 42.5 million Americans [Forbes] who live precariously. Today at least 580,000 [The Washington Post] are homeless. The pandemic has triggered a dramatic rise in homeless people and families. The cost of living has soared with the increased cost of food and soaring rents being particularly impactful.
"Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Poor people are frequently unable to pay for housing, food, childcare, health care, and education. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of these necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped. If you are poor, you are essentially an illness, an accident, or a paycheck away from living on the streets." National Coalition for the Homeless Homelessness in America
The future looks even bleaker. Historically, the primary triggers of homelessness have been losing a job, facing unexpected and unaffordable medical expenses, and struggling with underlying health issues. Today, shelters are seeing a rise in families who simply cannot afford to find rooms they can afford to rent. An estimated 13.7 million Americans are behind in rent or mortgage payments. A third of them are “somewhat likely” or “very likely” to lose their homes (eviction or foreclosure) in the next few months [The Washington Post]. As Covid eviction protections expire, this will cast a significant new population into the despair of homelessness.
Connecticut is both the richest state (per capita) in the union [Chamber of Commerce] and also one of the worst for wealth inequality [#4, World Population Review]. Still, it does work hard to help its homeless population – especially with a fantastic program to end all veteran homelessness. But, for all the reasons listed above, shelters remain under pressure, with 3,000 counted as chronically homeless (living in an emergency homeless shelter or place unfit for human habitation). More frightening, and not in the previous statistic, is that close to 5,000 young people (under 25) experienced homelessness in the past year [US Interagency Council on Homelessness].
Brilliant organizations like my distribution partner, opendoors.org, are really making a difference. But we all need to step up. It is simply unacceptable that we can’t put our good fortune to work to end the extreme hardship endured by homeless people.
Together we can help put homelessness in the rear-view mirror. Join the moovement.