Recently, I posted on my Facebook page the sobering stat that here in the United States….
Yes, Virginia there not only really is a Santa Claus; there really are 24 empty houses available for each homeless American. But I do understand your skepticism regarding this statistic. After all one of my own Facebook friends questioned this stat as well, stating that:
“I find this stat really hard to believe. Where are all these empty houses? Not in California. Maybe in Detroit where corrupt policies have driven home owners out of the city.”
We don’t want to think that we live in such an unequal world. After all Virginia, we grew up in elementary school reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and being taught that America was the land of “liberty and justice for all”. And we do try to live up to that ideal. Much progress has been made. But when it comes to people who experience homelessness, we do have a long way to go. Even in California, the Golden State, we have corrupt policies, cuts in housing resources for the poor and needy, and a lack of awareness of the real problems faced by the people who sleep on the streets every night even in nice places like Pasadena.
But Virginia, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Let’s start at the beginning. You wanted to know about California. And when it comes to the housing market, it is still pretty bad here. I refer you to the July 20th Los Angeles Times article below:
I am also posting two of the most intriguing quotes from that article in case it’s getting too close to your bedtime to read the whole thing:
“A total of 42,465 homes were repossessed during those three months, a 10.9% decline from a year earlier and a 1.4% drop from the first quarter. On average, California homes took 10 months to wind their way through foreclosure, up from 9.1 months in the previous quarter and the year-earlier period.”
“It’s way too early to pop the champagne corks,” he said. “Dropping back to 2007 levels is a positive trend, but foreclosures in 2007 were quite high by historical standards — more than double the rate in preceding years. There are many reasons to doubt whether the housing market has really turned the corner, and the need for serious foreclosure relief and principal reduction has absolutely not gone away.”
So how many people are homeless in California, Virginia? Well, according to HUD:
“On a single night last January, 636,017 people were homeless in the United States, a 2.1 percent decline from the year before. That’s the key finding of a new count on homelessness announced today by U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan. Donovan made the announcement at a meeting of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness where he was joined by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
HUD’s annual “point in time” estimate of the number of homeless persons and families is based on data reported by more than 3,000 cities and counties. While number of homeless persons vary locally, these communities are reporting modest declines in homelessness in every category or subpopulation including individuals, families, veterans and those experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness.
Wow. That’s a lot of people. 21 percent of 636,017 people is around 133,563 people in our so-called Golden State. Hmmm, let’s see 133,563 people divided by 42,465 repossessed homes…. That means that for every one homeless person in California there are around 3 homes that they could using if it weren’t for the bank having repossessed it.
And keep in mind this doesn’t account for homes that are in-between rentals or homes that are abandoned because they need repairs. These are just the homes that are repossessed.
And also, you may not know it, but HUD’s definition of what a homeless person is, well, it’s pretty narrow. Check it out:
In other words, if you are “couch-surfing” at your friends’ houses, HUD doesn’t consider you to be homeless. If you are not out on the streets or living in your car, van, or an abandoned garage you are not homeless according to HUD. Even the garage thing gets tricky. I have participated in a few homeless counts for the purposes of reporting to HUD for the City of Pasadena and I can tell you that we did not look for converted or abandoned garages. But I know someone who lives in one and she did not get counted. And in case you were wondering, no ,she doesn’t live in urban Los Angeles. She lives right here in Pasadena.
The 3 homes number that I came up with also doesn’t account for the practice of “doubling up” among many immigrants and poor people in which you can have, in some cases up to 10 people sharing a living space.
Let’s bring this closer to home. Maybe you are reading this note, Virginia—and friends— and thinking “Well, yeah, I suppose that Karen is good at knowing people in need, but do we really have the same disparity here in the Pasadena area?” Good question. Actually we do. Last year the City of Pasadena did a Homeless Count.
We counted 1,216 people who were homeless in Pasadena. That, according to the report represents a 7% increase from the previous year.
Foreclosure Radar, a site specializing in tracking all distressed home owners and REOs, reports that as of 1/16/12 there are 481 Pasadena home owners that are in some stage of foreclosure. That number is more than the actual home listings for sale now in Pasadena (as of today 416 homes, condos and townhomes available for sale in Pasadena.)
So I did the math again. Drum roll…. In nice Pasadena, we have 2.5 homes (at least) for every homeless person.
And that’s why Virginia, I continue to advocate for people who experience homelessness. Because Christmas (and Santa Claus, and peace on earth, good will toward men) needs to be an everyday experience that we take to the streets. Not just a holiday with too much eggnog, fruit bread and tinsel.
Because, as you can see, something is seriously wrong with our priorities. And I follow Jesus, who was homeless when He walked this earth, so I know that I have to continue to work for the rights of people who are experiencing homeless, one day at a time, one person at a time