What if? A different approach to homelessness and housing affordability

GUEST COLUMN

 By Linda Brown

Without major policy changes in the federal government and a massive influx of federal funds, no community will be able to build the amount of affordable housing that is needed. In addition, our attempts to fund a greater amount of affordable housing by increasing property taxes makes housing even less affordable for residents with modest incomes and creates a cycle that increases the need for yet even more affordable housing.

First, we must set priorities, and those priorities must be the members of our own community who are most in need: the homeless, near homeless, elderly and the disabled, and the local workforce.

So, if we cannot fund construction of more affordable housing, make housing more affordable, or increase salaries of underpaid workers—why not supplement incomes? 

This supplement could be in the form of an interest free loan, or a monthly supplement, depending on the individual situation.

 Unless an individual was permanently disabled or elderly, the monthly supplement would be temporary and just enough to prevent a person or family from becoming homeless, or enough to fund the difference between the person’s income and rent. 

With the aid of a mentor, or social worker, the temporary supplement would last just long enough for the person to complete the education, internship, or training that would enable them to move to a better paying job with which they could afford to rent an accommodation; a hand up–not a hand out.

Think of the impact this could have on the life of someone who just needs child care to take a job, or need to complete a certifying course for employment–or someone escaping abuse.  Or someone who cannot afford an expensive repair to their car that they need to get to work–someone who has left a job because of illness, or someone who has had to leave employment to care for an ill family member. These are the people who fall through the cracks, end up on the street that would not be there at all if they could obtain just the smallest amount of assistance—the people whose pleas you see each day on NextDoor. Just that little be of help could transform the life of a person, or an entire family—and keep them off the street.

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