For most people in central Maryland, a small increase in rent isn’t catastrophic. But for some, even a small shift can be the difference between having a stable home and living in a car.
Are people becoming homeless because the housing market is too expensive? According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a minimum-wage earner would have to work 3.3 full-time jobs to afford fair-market rent on a two-bedroom apartment in central Maryland.
Or perhaps central Marylanders don’t earn enough to support themselves. Health Care for the Homeless reports that 50 percent of “poor” Marylanders make an income below 50 percent of the federal income level — a situation labeled “deep poverty.”
Over the last five years, homelessness across the U.S. has declined 2 percent. Unfortunately, central Maryland hasn’t seen the same trend. Between 2014 and 2015, homelessness in Baltimore rose almost 7 percent.
But to begin to solve the challenge of homelessness, it’s not enough to simply know that it is an issue — but rather, why it’s happening.
To better understand how people become homeless in central Maryland, here are stories from five local residents who have experienced homelessness… and overcome it.
In central Maryland, housing costs are among the highest in the nation, which means that even a marginal rent increase can displace a family. When Charlotte couldn’t afford the rise in housing costs, she and her three children were forced out of their apartment and into their car.
Clarisse shared an apartment with her son and mother, but when her mother become ill, she could no longer pay her portion of the rent. Unable to afford the apartment on one income, Clarisse and her family were forced to relocate to a homeless shelter. To make things worse, the shelter was so far from Clarisse’s workplace that she had to cut her hours — which made it even more difficult to afford a new place to live.
Becoming a new mother is hard enough. But one challenge central Maryland mom Marina didn’t expect so soon after welcoming her daughter into the world was becoming homeless.
After returning from the hospital, Marina and her infant daughter were initially able to stay with a family member. Soon, however, the living arrangement became too stressful and the pair was asked to move out. Without a job or source of income, Marina saw no viable housing options.
At first glance, Jean’s life seemed stable; she’d kept the same job as a sales associate for five years. However, even the most stable job doesn’t guarantee that it will cover the expenses required to support a large family. Jean was a hardworking employee, but she simply didn’t make enough to provide for her four children. After continually struggling to make ends meet, the family was evicted from their home.
Homelessness doesn’t always come with warning signs. One day, Thomas and his family were secure in their apartment, and the next — after a catastrophic fire — they were homeless. The fire destroyed their home and all their possessions, leaving them with nowhere to go. And to make matters worse, Thomas’ poor credit history made it challenging to qualify for new housing.
In each of these cases, the individual or family was able to connect with United Way of Central Maryland and, through a rehousing or shelter diversion program, find stable housing once again.
But there’s still work to be done. In some cases, people experiencing homelessness have trouble accessing critical services they need to get back on their feet — such as career services, legal advice, and government identification. Each year, United Way of Central Maryland helps connect local homeless individuals and families to all those services at Project Homeless Connect. Learn more about the annual event, and see how you can help throughout the year by registering for one of our many upcoming volunteer opportunities.
For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Maryland has been improving lives in the communities it serves: Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Harford County and Howard County, Maryland.
United Way of Central Maryland is a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization! | Tax ID: 52-0591543