Giving Compass' Take:

• Speaking at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference, Nan Roman reflects on the state of progress in the fight to end homelessness, discussing various causes and potential solutions.

• What makes homelessness such a complex issue to address, and how does it vary for different demographics? What will it take for you to make an impact on such a wide-reaching problem?

• Read about one specific problem having a colossal impact on homelessness.

The major driver in homelessness is the mismatch between the cost of housing and what people earn.  Rents are rising much faster than incomes.  Here in California, a recent McKinsey report said that real estate prices have risen three times faster that household incomes and that more than half of the state’s households cannot afford the cost of housing.  As the rental housing crisis, nationally, pushes farther up the income ladder, the competition for less expensive units becomes greater, and housing available to the lowest income people gets more and more scarce.

There is a racial dimension to this.  The Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard points out that black renters had the highest rent burden rate in 2019 with 55 percent paying more than 30 percent of their income for housing.  In contrast the cost-burdened share of white renter households was 43 percent.  Perhaps not surprisingly, then, poor Black renters are almost twice as likely as poor White renters to have been evicted.

Additional causal factors of homelessness are the behavioral and physical health problems of individuals, and the lack of treatment for them.  People with disabilities are disproportionately poor and discriminated against.  Of course, health problems are both a cause and a result of homelessness.

In the long run, we are going to have to do something about the cost of housing. We must continue to elevate the issue and take advantage of the moment.   And of course, not just on housing — living wages, adequate incomes for those who cannot work, and health and behavioral health care for all are also targets we should shoot for.  Those are the real solutions.

Read the full article about homelessness in 2020 by Nan Roman at the National Alliance to End Homelessness.