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The Dire Straits of the Working Homeless

Due to stagnant wages and the lack of affordable housing in many U.S. cities, even people with jobs are finding themselves slipping into homelessness.
September 4, 2019, 8am PDT | Camille Fink
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In a feature piece, Brian Goldstone examines the plight of the "working homeless"—people who are working but struggling with low wages, high housing costs, and unstable housing situations. "Theirs, increasingly, is the face of homelessness in the United States: people whose paychecks are no longer enough to keep a roof over their heads."

Goldstone explores the struggles of this largely overlooked group of Americans through the experience of a family in Atlanta contending with the cycle of precarious housing. He follows them as the face an unexpected rent increase, lose their home after their rental home is condemned, and live in temporary housing in a motel and with friends and relatives.

Helping people once they are homeless is not the solution, writes Goldstone. "The task is to prevent it from happening in the first place, by striking at its root source: the vastly bigger but less conspicuous problem of housing insecurity, now afflicting the nearly eleven million renter households that are severely cost-burdened."

Tenant protections and rent control are two effective strategies to keep people from falling into homelessness. "Most advocates agree, however, that lasting change will come only through massive government reinvestment in low-income housing, livable wages (including pay protections for the growing number of gig workers), and an openness to alternative models, such as community land trusts and limited-equity cooperatives," notes Goldstone.

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Published on Wednesday, August 21, 2019 in The New Republic
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