Poverty, Homelessness, and Home
Poverty. Insufficient income to meet basic needs, to live a fruitful and full life.
Home is a basic human need. It follows right behind air, water and food. It’s probably connected with love. Aeon’s vision is that every person has a home. Tonight, there will be 14,000 homeless people in Minnesota. Our work is not done.
I often get asked, “What causes homelessness?” There are many contributing factors, of course—as many as there would be in the answers to the questions: What causes violence? What causes hate? What causes wars, or greed?
We know there are competing reasons and factors, including the fact that there are many institutionalized barriers—often tied to race and class—that keep people from having adequate access to resources. Homelessness is also an economic problem—not having enough money to buy housing in the marketplace. But why don’t some people have enough resources?
January is Poverty Awareness Month, so let’s consider some numbers. A person earning today’s minimum wage would have to work 91 hours a week in order to afford the average Twin Cities 2-bedroom apartment. All renters are challenged to find a quality, affordable apartment; however, for the poorest households, the challenge becomes a near impossibility. For every 100 extremely low income renter households, there are just 30 affordable and available units.
Every year, more than 4,100 people—including adults, children, and youth experiencing homelessness—call an Aeon property home. The average income of Aeon households is about $15,900 annually. The cost of living is real, especially for those below the poverty line. A parking ticket or staying home for two days with a sick child can quickly lead to the inability to pay rent and bills—which can lead to eviction and potentially homelessness for someone who earns a low wage.
How do we solve issues of poverty and homelessness? The truth is that we need enough real opportunity for everyone, and we need more personal and collective accountability. Our expectations are often too low for ourselves, for each other, and for our communities. We will only even start to solve these issues when—instead of pointing fingers—we insist on adequate opportunity for everyone and accountability from each of us. For me, an important first step is always looking in the mirror and challenging myself to find ways to act.
Alan Arthur, President and CEO
 Out of Reach, 2014, National Low Income Housing Association