Recently, we were looking at the data we collect from our own clients and the social service agencies that are working with them. When clients sign up for a Community Voice Mail number, we ask them which of the following general categories they fit in (check all that apply):
In 2008, about 60% of our 40,000 clients self-identified as being "Homeless" or "At Risk of Homelessness." Of this 60%,
- 44% selected only Homeless or At Risk of Homelessness and no other categories. In other words, 44% felt that this single category best described their situation, or was the only characteristic they were willing to provide.
- 45% selected one category in addition to the Homeless/At-Risk grouping, with the most prominent being Unemployed (nearly 90% of those who selected a second category included Unemployed as the other).
- 9% selected two categories in addition to the Homeless/At-Risk grouping, with the most prominent additions being Unemployed+Victim of Domestic Violence or Unemployed+Parole/Prisoner Re-entry Program
- 1% selected three additional categories, and a small number selected four or more
This may be obvious, and the data about the causes of homelessness usually indicate this, but it's definitely a reminder that life is a fragile lattice. A break anywhere can lead to weakness in other areas, which can eventually break as well. For our clients, it appears that homelessness is usually combined with unemployment, with the loss of a job usually preceding the loss of a place to live. Throw in domestic violence, limited ability to speak English, or even having your home phone disconnected, and imagine the impact on the totality of your life. Something to consider in our economy as more people begin to experience that first break to their own lattice, whether it's the loss of a job, foreclosure on a house, or an illness without health insurance.
The person in the story mentioned above may have ended up living in a tent, but before that he was in a hospital without health insurance. And he was on the roof in the first place because he didn't have a job.