By: Sai Marie Johnson
Historically, California has been a place we have looked to repeatedly to see what trends we should expect for our country. Alarmingly, the newest of these trends is one that everyone in every classification in America needs to be abreast of homelessness.
According to a recent report organized by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in 2019 alone there has been a very scary statistic regarding the unhoused that seems to be continually rising by dramatic strides. In California, there was an increase of over 20,000 persons added to their already delicate homeless population and sadly, it doesn’t look like this is going to decrease any time soon. But the question is, why? What is causing this terrifying trend and how can we stop it?
The reasons are many and in California, some of the displacement is undoubtedly due to horrific wildfire that has devastated many houses and properties over the last few years, but that only amounts to a small percentage of the homeless populace. The primary issue that seems to be the problem for most working homeless people is not the lack of work but rather the lack of affordable housing. But what do those terms actually mean?
It used to be that affordable housing meant housing that was cheaper than the average market rent, but with market rents increasing substantially what has been defined as affordable is, unfortunately, not. In fact, studies now show that one-third of your rent rule isn’t quite right and some landlords are even dismissing that and renting to persons they know will not be able to afford their base rents, but because they want units filled they are still leasing them out. This has lead to a rise in evictions and in the State of Oregon, Eugene and Portland have now become battle zones between business owners, the housed and the unhoused. Seattle is experiencing the same.
With consideration to the fact that these are other close West Coast cities that are mirroring the same issues California is now having – something needs to be done. Worse yet, homeless persons are now experiencing a rise in hate crimes against them simply for being in the situation they’re in, and that alone shows a huge problem – one that society as a whole needs to address because, if California does lead the country in trends – America is headed for the crapper.