Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Lack of afffordable housing puts people on the streets

<ing to the Carleton Library to look for books for a display about homelessness was a depressing experience for me. I found two half-filled shelves on the second floor containing books mostly written in the 80’s, with titles such as “The Tramp in America”, “Citizen Hobo” and, alarmingly, “Raised by Wolves”. I could find only one book about the vital issue of veterans and homelessness, which recounted the hard process World War II vets faced in reentering society, a relevant concern of the day. And of course I found my pet peeve: the dirty homeless man huddled in multiple layers staring dazed-eyed at me from the cover of multiple books. This experience definitely gave me some perspective on why so many Americans are misinformed about homelessness. The stereotypes, dehumanization, and disgust that surround this issue create significant roadblocks to fixing the problem.

In a 2006 study by the Amherst H. Wilder Foundation it was found that at least 9,200 adults are homeless every night in Minnesota. “Homeless” is defined here as any adult whose primary residence is a supervised temporary living accommodation or somewhere not meant for human habitation like a car or under a bridge. It also includes youth similarly housed or forced to stay temporarily in other people’s homes. This number remains consistent with studies from 2003, however a new trend in the homeless population is the increased number of youth on the street. Children and young adults under 21 now make up almost half of the homeless population, and the amount of unaccompanied children under the age of 17 who experience homeless on any given night has increased to an estimated 650. This study also found disproportionate amounts of people of color, veterans, former inmates, the mentally ill, sexually or physically abused women, and gay men experiencing homelessness.

While there are many factors contributing to homelessness – the minimum wage, racial discrimination, the mental health and health care systems, substance abuse treatment, the foster care system, domestic violence, welfare services, etc., there is only one is present in every case: lack of access to affordable housing.

Affordable housing has been defined as comprising no more than 30% of household income. Of the 28% of homeless adults who work, there is a median income of $680 in the Twin Cities and $600 in greater Minnesota. To afford a one-bedroom apartment these adults would have to use 88% and 69% of monthly incomes, respectively. In 2000, 297,000 low-income households statewide were not able to afford their homes, and that number has been rising.

The Housing Solutions Act is a proposed solution to this problem. It would provide new resources dedicated to low-income rental assistance, affordable housing rehabilitation, and a new local housing incentive fund. The funding would come from an increase in the deed tax from .33% to .5%. The new revenue would be dedicated to these proven and flexible MN Housing Finance Agency programs, as well as local incentive-based funds for both large and small communities.

On February 28th, I will be spending my twentieth birthday lobbying at the capitol with other members of MPIRG and the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless for the Housing Solutions Act. Because Carleton students played such a huge part in electing both Kevin Dahle and David Bly, I am hoping for their support. Anyone is welcome to come celebrate my birthday with me at the capitol. I encourage everyone to educate themselves about this issue from sources like the Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless, the Wilder Foundation, and the Housing Solutions Alliance. There is, of course, the display in the library set up by MPIRG about homelessness issues. It turns out “Raised by Wolves” (1995!) is actually an interesting photo essay documenting lives of runaway teens, while not uplifting, at least gives some hope that perspectives about the homeless can change.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *