Those interviewed for the article cite the lack of affordable housing as a major factor in this increase. As the economy slowly recovers, rents are increasing and the most affordable rents are often in more rural areas that lack access to public transportation, jobs and services.
Nationwide, sequestration has reduced the availability of HUD vouchers by 5-6% and also puts individuals and families using vouchers and emergency shelters at risk.
“The number of people we serve has grown, and we’re supposed to be ending homelessness, really,” said Lisa Falcone, of the Mental Health Association of Morris County. “We’re trying to. I think it’s grown largely, at least in our communities, because of affordable housing … It’s difficult for people to make ends meet, and there’s a lack of jobs.”
The article profiles Debra Lee Gallia, a 49 year old single woman who became homeless in 2010 after losing her job and apartment and suffering from depression. She now has a chronic health condition but is living in her own Section 8 apartment – the affordable rents for these apartments are not at risk due to the potential effects of sequestration.
“Gallia said she looks forward to better times and, in the meantime, will help people who help themselves so she doesn’t deplete herself. ‘I feel my life is heading in a positive direction,” she said. “I don’t think I’d be this far without the Mental Health Association of Morris County. They’ve really helped me a lot. I’m not quitting. I’m transforming.’”
Those working to end homelessness see a need to help specific homeless populations including single women, seniors, and youth aging out of the children’s service system.