Words by Tess Becker
The cost of living is continuing to skyrocket in the United States because of things like the ongoing inflation crisis. From 2017 to 2022, the average year-over-year increase in rent was 5.77% nationwide, with the biggest increase occurring from 2021 to 2022 at 14.07%.
Those increases are forcing people out of their homes and making some places in the country nearly impossible to afford for the average person.
Across many major cities this has manifested as a homelessness crisis and different places are adopting different strategies to address it. In Portland, Oregon, a homeless shelter is attempting to tackle homelessness by preventing it altogether.
The shelter, called Path Home, has a program that they started around 5 years ago. That program is called The Homelessness Prevention Program which helps families about to lose their homes by paying back rent and past due utilities in emergency situations. The goal in mind is to prevent homelessness from happening in the first place.
Evictions have spiked in Oregon. In January alone, the state had 2,244 evictions, according to the Oregon Law Center Eviction Defense Project. Of these, 847 were in the county where Portland is located. Path Home operated 17 emergency shelters to help people in times of crisis like that but the shelters have a waitlist nearly 800 families long.
But through the Homelessness Prevention Program Path Home was able to keep over 90 families in their homes and off the streets, spending just over $3,100 per family.
“The housing program and the shelter program are like acute medical care. It’s like going to the ER when your bone is broken and you need to fix it. What I’m doing is preventative medicine,” Samuel Freni-Rothschild, Path Home’s prevention specialist said.
This is a two-fold solution, first keeping families in their homes and preventing the potential trauma that comes from being homeless, and also saving money in the long run.
According to Brandi Tuck, Path Home’s executive director, rehousing people who have been homeless can cost as much as $50,000 in rent assistance over the course of a few years. The argument is then that it might actually be cheaper to help families catch up on back bills than to help them get rehomed down the line.
“We are trying to catch people at the very beginning of what could potentially be a much larger crisis,” Freni-Rothschild said.
The goal is that a one-time intervention like the $3,100 payment could cut the issues at the root giving families a little breathing room for them to catch up avoiding homelessness entirely.
“We envision a community where no family experiences homelessness and where every family receives the support and compassion necessary to thrive,” Path Home writes on its website.
The qualification process is minute, requiring a child to live in the house and once they qualify the landlord is contacted and things are handled from there.
“We are literally preventing the crisis and trauma of homelessness for people, so the children don’t have adverse childhood experiences, so the parents can stay in the logical/critical thinking part of their brain and not have to go through that trauma,” Tuck said.
At Smiley Movement, we like to elevate the work of charities across the world. Here are three charities whose causes align with the themes in this article.
Path Home. This organization helps families facing homelessness in Portland, Oregon. Find out more and support them here.
Hope South Florida. They help people affected by homelessness across the tri-county South Florida. Find out more.
National Coalition for the Homeless. They aid homeless people around the country through their many branches. Support them here.