Ailing Economy Creates More Risk of Homelessness for Working Poor People

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Press Releases | December 6, 2010

Contact: Catherine An
202-942-8297, can@naeh.org

Ailing Economy Creates More Risk of Homelessness for Working Poor People

In the second of the Economy Bytes series, the National Alliance to End Homelessness explores the employment characteristics of the working poor population

Washington, DC – On the heels of the announcement that the unemployment rate jumped to 9.8 percent, the National Alliance to End Homelessness (the Alliance) releases the second installment of the Economy Bytes series concluding that the working poor population is more likely to experience risk factors for homelessness than the general working population.

In the brief, the Alliance concludes:

  • Working poor people are more likely to experience severe housing cost burden.
  • In 2008, 37.6 percent of the working poor population spent more than 50 percent of their monthly income on rent compared to just 3.8 percent of the general working population.
  • Working poor people are more likely to be doubled up than the general working population.
  • In 2008, an estimated 7.8 percent of the working poor population is doubled up with family or friends as compared to less than 6.5 percent of the general working population.
  • Working poor people are more tenuously tied to the workforce.
  • On average, the working poor population works 46.2 weeks per year compared to the general working population’s 49.1 weeks per year.
  • The occupations that employ working poor people are volatile.
  • In 2008, the top five occupations for working poor people were: cashiers, waiters or waitresses, cooks, maids/housekeeping staff, and retail salespersons. These industries are particularly vulnerable to seasonal or economic change. Workers in these five occupations worked an average of 30.6 hours per week compared to the national average of 40.1 hours.

These factors, job loss, sudden and significant decrease of income, housing cost burden, and doubled up living arrangements, are all precursors for homelessness and, as the data show, common experiences among working poor people.

“As the economy struggles to recover, unemployment, underemployment, and poverty threaten working poor people with the prospect of homelessness,” said Nan Roman, president of the Alliance. “It is imperative that we take action to prevent this from happening. The federal stimulus investment in the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP) has been extremely successful to date. We must continue to provide the necessary resources to stabilize and ensure housing for working poor people so that the legacy of this challenging economy is not a new generation of homeless people.”

For the purposes of this brief, the Alliance has defined “working poor” to mean individuals who work at least 27 weeks per year but still fall at or below the poverty line. The “general working population” is defined as all individuals who work over 27 weeks per year. This is the second installment of the Alliance series, Economy Bytes – a series of briefs on various economic indicators and their relationship to homelessness.

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