New Yorkers are increasingly in danger of becoming homeless. According to new research released by the Women's Center for Education and Career Advancement, living expenses have increased at a faster rate in recent days than wages for families living in New York City. Not a surprise, perhaps, but a fact that makes getting by harder and harder for countless families.
The study, The Self-Sufficiency Standard for the City of New York 2010 (pdf), "measures how much income a family of a certain composition in a given place must earn to meet their basic needs. Employers, advocates, and legislators can use it to evaluate wages, provide career counseling and create programs that lead to self-sufficiency for working families." Previous reports were issued in 2004 (pdf) and 2000. (Guess legislators didn't use them to create enough programs.) This time around the study found that "[o]ver the past decade the cost of meeting basic needs in New York City has increased considerably while median earnings among New York City workers has increased at a much lower rate .... The Self-Sufficiency Standard shows that earnings well above the official Federal Poverty Level are nevertheless far below what is needed to meet families' basic needs in New York City."
This is something the city has been aware of for some time. Government standards of measuring poverty do not take into account expenses like housing, medical costs and child care, so the city included them in its new measure and found 300,000 people in poverty who previously hadn't been considered poor. When NYC factored in these expenses (which are often a large chunk of the average NYC family's living expenses) the study determined that poverty rose around seven percent from 2005 to 2008, even though the national statistics found that poverty fell by eight percent during that time.
Often this is the exact equation that can lead to homelessness and, in particular, family homelessness. Many New York City families already live paycheck to paycheck and are in danger of losing their homes by being this vulnerable. Add in an unforeseen expense, such as a large medical bill or increase in child care costs, and a family is often left with no other option but to lose their home.
Thankfully, the nation has followed New York City's lead in considering these geographic variables. In March of this year, the Obama administration adopted a new version of the formula that was created close to 50 years ago. Now factors like health care costs, housing and utilities will be factored in, creating a more realistic picture of the vast expenses a family is up against on a daily basis. The new standards will be rolled out next year. Though not binding in terms of benefit distribution, hopefully these findings will lead to more comprehensive services and just maybe an increase in wages across the board.
No matter how poverty is measured, the reality is that far too many people are in danger of becoming homeless for the simple fact that their income does not adequately cover the necessary costs of daily living. Many housing subsidies require people to work, yet if a person does not earn enough to cover the cost, the vicious cycle of poverty and homelessness continues. Our country expects a lot of its citizens; it's time that we expect more from our country.
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Take a look at the "self-sufficiency standard." Then keep in mind that "standard" payment for person with a disability in America is $8088 / year. Out of that $8100 one must pay for ALL living and "related" expenses, such as toilet paper, laundry, electric, other utilities. ALL must come ALL that $80810. If you are lucky, you may get $40-60 for food.
Now... how "secure" would do you feel knowing that amount if money is you can expect because that of budget does not fancy hi-powered interviews or even computer. ALL your expenses [including student loans or past debt] are your own and they do not go away. Welcome to the United States of Embarrassment.
Now, hurry and RUN, don't walk.. because chances you will to wait three years or so before you can ANY payments... that is neither "secure" not "suffiicient."