Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison
Poverty-related issues in the news, from the Institute for Research on Poverty

Category: Homelessness and Housing

Homelessness in Los Angeles, CA

L.A.’s homelessness surged 75% in six years. Here’s why the crisis has been decades in the making, By Gale Holland, February 1, 2018, Los Angeles Times: “Some of the poorest people in the city spend their days in the shadow of Los Angeles City Hall, napping on flattened cardboard boxes. On any given day, as many as 20 people take to the City Hall lawn, across the street from LAPD headquarters. They’re there to ‘escape the madness’ in downtown streets, a 53-year-old homeless man named Lazarus said last week. At night, they fan out to doorways or deserted plazas to wait for daybreak. The growth of a homeless day camp at the halls of civic power speaks to the breadth of Los Angeles’ burgeoning homelessness problem…”

Homeless Day-Labor Program – Denver, CO

After Denver hired homeless people to shovel mulch and perform other day labor, more than 100 landed regular jobs, By Jon Murray, January 16, 2018, Denver Post: “Jeffrey Maes didn’t expect to live on the streets in his 50s. He had started several businesses, but he says the last one, a remodeling company, went south just as he was stretched thin on four properties. He lost them all, he said, and ended up without a home — along with the realization that he was considered unemployable. But last year, he heard about a Denver-sponsored day-labor program that had helped friends get back on their feet. After nearly four years of homelessness, Maes gave it a shot…”

Affordable Housing

Tax overhaul is a blow to affordable housing efforts, By Conor Dougherty, January 18, 2018, New York Times: “The last time that Congress approved a sweeping overhaul of the federal tax code, in 1986, it created a tax credit meant to encourage the private sector to invest in affordable housing. It has grown into a $9 billion-a-year social program that has funded the construction of some three million apartments for low-income residents. But the Republican tax plan approved last month amounts to a vast cutback, making it much less likely that such construction will continue apace…”

Homeless Students and Academic Achievement – New York

New report shines light on homeless students’ achievement gap, By Jay Rey, December 12, 2017, Buffalo News: “Homeless students in New York City fared better on state assessment tests than students in Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse who had never been homeless. Meanwhile, more than 16 percent of students in the Buffalo Public Schools who took the state tests two years ago were either homeless or had been homeless at one time. In either case, those students were about half as likely to meet state math and reading standards compared to their classmates who have always had their own place to call home…”

Section 8 Housing Vouchers – Arizona

Locked out: Section 8 housing vouchers fail to open doors for low-income renters, By Alden Woods, December 14, 2017, Arizona Republic: “Marcella Landson set aside her Section 8 voucher and stared at the shaded map of Tempe, searching for the right neighborhood. They all seemed the same. She had come to find a home, but couldn’t even figure out where to look.  At the head of a wide conference table in the city library, Tempe Housing Services supervisor Theresa James held up her own copy of the map. About half of the city was shaded in, marking what was described as prosperity and potential. The rest was left empty, filled only by high poverty and unemployment rates. In those areas, schools performed worse. Houses and apartments sagged with age. Rents were low, but opportunities were few…”

Homelessness and Affordable Housing Shortages

  • Into the trees: Rural housing shortages push some into forests, parking lots, By Alden Woods, December 3, 2017, Arizona Republic: “This place provided nothing, so Doug Stewart tried to prepare for everything. He filled his Jeep with blankets for the cold and tents for the rain, ham-and-cheese sandwiches for the hungry and a full tank of gas to take people out of Gila County. Then he drove to Walmart. He rolled into the parking lot, past the people who held cardboard signs at each entrance, past a dozen people who slept in their cars every night. Even more people camped in the woods behind the store, and into the trees walked Stewart, 46, to find Theresa…”
  • Homeless population rises, driven by West Coast affordable-housing crisis, By Pam Fessler, December 6, 2017, National Public Radio: “Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday…”
  • America’s homeless population rises for first time in years, By Christopher Weber and Geoff Mulvihill (AP), December 6, 2017, US News & World Report: “The nation’s homeless population increased this year for the first time since 2010, driven by a surge in the number of people living on the streets in Los Angeles and other West Coast cities…”

Student Homelessness

New study finds that 4.2 million kids experience homelessness each year, By Leila Fadel, November 15, 2017, National Public Radio: “Marquan Ellis was evicted from his home in Las Vegas, Nevada when he was 18. His mother battled with a drug and gambling addiction while he stayed at his godmother’s house. But he couldn’t stay there forever. He found his way to the Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth where he enrolled in the independent living program…”

Seattle Times Series on Homelessness

Project Homeless, homepage, Seattle Times: “The Seattle Times is launching Project Homeless, a community-funded initiative to explore the causes of homelessness, explain what the region is doing about the crisis and spotlight potential solutions. Today, we examine one of the obstacles to moving people into stable housing…”

Homelessness on the West Coast

Homelessness soars on West Coast as cities struggle to cope, Associated Press, November 6, 2017, CNBC: “In a park in the middle of a leafy, bohemian neighborhood where homes list for close to $1 million, a tractor’s massive claw scooped up the refuse of the homeless — mattresses, tents, wooden frames, a wicker chair, an outdoor propane heater. Workers in masks and steel-shanked boots plucked used needles and mounds of waste from the underbrush. Just a day before, this corner of Ravenna Park was an illegal home for the down and out, one of 400 such encampments that have popped up in Seattle’s parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. Now, as police and social workers approached, some of the dispossessed scurried away, vanishing into a metropolis that is struggling to cope with an enormous wave of homelessness. That struggle is not Seattle’s alone…”

Legal Counsel for Eviction

How free legal help can prevent evictions, By Teresa Wiltz, October 27, 2017, Stateline: “In much of the country, more and more renters are devoting larger and larger portions of their income to rent. For low-income families, this can push them further into poverty and put them at risk for being evicted — and becoming homeless. Evictions destabilize families, forcing them into poorer neighborhoods with higher crime rates. And evictions cost cities money: After a family is evicted, a city can end up losing thousands of dollars in property taxes and unpaid utility bills, and may have to bear increased costs from homeless shelters and hospitals…”

Public Utilities

  • Same lake, unequal rates, By Ted Gregory, Cecilia Reyes, Patrick M. O’Connell and Angela Caputo, October 25, 2017, Chicago Tribune: “Lake Michigan water rates have been surging throughout the Chicago region in recent years, squeezing low-income residents and leaving them with little, if any, recourse, a Tribune analysis shows. In this tangled network that delivers water to the vast majority of the region’s residents, the Tribune found an upside-down world, one where people in the poorest communities pay more for a basic life necessity than those in the wealthiest. And the financial pain falls disproportionately on majority-African-American communities, where residents’ median water bill is 20 percent higher for the same amount of water than residents pay in predominantly white communities, the Tribune’s examination revealed…”
  • No Social Security Number? No lights, By Teresa Wiltz, October 17, 2017, Stateline: “In the city of LaGrange, Georgia, an immigrant from Mexico lives with his young family. He’s been living there for 10 years. He’s a homeowner. He doesn’t have a green card, so he doesn’t have a Social Security number. Without the Social Security number, the homeowner can’t get utility services in his name, even though he has a Mexican passport and an individual taxpayer identification number from the Internal Revenue Service. (To protect him, his lawyer does not want to disclose his immigration status.) The city, which is the sole provider of utilities, requires that anyone opening an account have two things: a Social Security number and a government-issued photo ID…”

Affordable Housing

America’s affordable-housing stock dropped by 60 percent from 2010 to 2016, By Tracy Jan, October 23, 2017, Washington Post: “The number of apartments deemed affordable for very low-income families across the United States fell by more than 60 percent between 2010 and 2016, according to a new report by Freddie Mac.  The report by the government-backed mortgage financier is the first to compare rent increases in specific units over time. It examined loans that the corporation had financed twice between 2010 and 2016, allowing a comparison of the exact same rental units and how their affordability changed…”

The Columbian Series on Eviction – Clark Co, WA

  • Getting evicted: A 1-2 punch, By Patty Hastings, October 22, 2017, The Columbian: “Charmaine Crossley and Kate Dunphy talk in hushed voices on the top floor of the Clark County Courthouse, plotting what to say to keep Crossley and her family from being evicted. Dunphy, the deputy director of the Tenants Union of Washington State, advises Crossley on how best to defend herself if the judge denies her request for more time…”
  • A day in eviction court can be hard to navigate, By Patty Hastings, October 22, 2017, The Columbian: “A man in the third row of benches is dozing, his soft snores occasionally jolting him awake. Fluorescent lights buzz overhead. It seems dull, but lives change in this courtroom, where every Friday a Clark County Superior Court judge hears the unlawful-detainer docket. The vast majority of renters facing unlawful-detainer lawsuits, or evictions, lose their cases. They are ordered to pay back rent, late fees and the landlord’s attorney costs. Once the order is recorded and they vacate, future landlords will be less willing to rent to them…”
  • Evictions: Tools are available to help, but organizations struggle to keep up, By Patty Hastings, October 23, 2017, The Columbian: “More than 1,100 eviction notices were filed in Clark County last year, and the same number are expected this year. Several agencies around Clark County operate rental-assistance programs that, in many cases, prevent evictions from happening. However, the programs are costly and can’t help everyone…”
  • Advocates, landlords at odds over some tenant protections, By Patty Hastings, October 23, 2017, The Columbian: “A law in Washington that became effective in June 2016 allows tenants to seek an order of limited dissemination, which basically stops screening agencies from showing a prior eviction or using that past to calculate a rental score…”

Student Homelessness

  • 10% of New York City public school students were homeless last year, By Elizabeth A. Harris, October 10, 2017, New York Times: “The number of homeless students in the New York City public school system rose again last year, according to state data released on Tuesday. The increase pushed the city over a sober milestone: One in every 10 public school students was homeless at some point during the 2016-17 school year…”
  • Central Florida’s homeless students top 14,000, By Kate Santich, October 10, 2017, Orlando Sentinel: “Mimi is 16, the oldest of six kids, all living in a single room at an Orlando homeless shelter with their mom. Between high school and a fast-food job, she is up most weekdays until midnight. Then she sets three alarms each morning — at 4, 4:30 and 4:40 — to ensure she catches the 5:37 a.m. bus.  ‘I always jumped from school to school every couple of months,’ she said. ‘It was stressful, but I got used to it. This was just how we live.’  These days, it’s how a lot of Central Florida kids live…”

Section 8 Housing – Los Angeles, CA

Up to 600,000 expected to apply when L.A. reopens Section 8 housing list this month after 13 years, By Doug Smith, October 1, 2017, Los Angeles Times: “Lately, home for Tamara Meeks has been the screened-in back porch of a tiny house behind an apartment building near 66th Street and Compton Avenue. At night she slips into the kitchen to sleep on a mover’s blanket while her two dogs sleep under a car seat on the porch. Her arrangement, with the parents of a friend’s friend, is the latest of a string of temporary arrangements Meeks has made during the 13 years she’s been waiting for a Section 8 housing voucher…”

Public Housing – Phoenix, AZ

‘It just has to go’: Plans for crumbling Phoenix housing projects threatened by new HUD cuts, By Alden Woods, September 28, 2017, Arizona Republic: “She moved into the projects 32 years ago, eyes wide at everything that had become hers. ‘This is mine,’ Yvonne Bridges remembers whispering back then, as a caseworker wheeled her through the door. ‘Mine,’ she repeated, running a hand over the sweating concrete walls and the vents that blew sticky air. Three decades later, the same concrete walls still surround 88-year-old Bridges. The Edison-Eastlake neighborhood has fallen into disrepair. Thick concrete walls trap in heat that aging swamp coolers can’t dispel, and maintenance teams improvise fixes on 75-year-old parts. For 32 years, Edison-Eastlake crumbled along with so many of America’s public housing projects. Federal money meant to maintain the country’s 1.2 million public housing units was never enough, and a backlog built up. The National Housing Preservation Database now counts more than 84,000 units in need of immediate investment…”

Affordable Housing – Milwaukee, WI

Low-income households in Milwaukee squeezed by rents, By Kevin Crowe and Ashley Luthern, September 22, 2017, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: “When Cheryl Williams-Adams moved to Milwaukee with her teenage daughter four years ago, she landed on her feet. She worked as a substance abuse counselor for two organizations, and her monthly income was enough to cover the rent for their one-bedroom apartment, as well as to have some savings. ‘I was trying to build up enough money to get a house,’ Williams-Adams said.  Like many people, she was one emergency away from financial hardship.  In 2015, Williams-Adams, 63, had a heart attack. She hasn’t been able to work since.  Now, the mix of short-term benefits and Social Security payments she receives add up to about $1,000 per month. Her rent is $590. In the City of Milwaukee, 50% of all renters spent more than 30% of their monthly income on housing in 2016, compared to 46% of renters nationally, according to new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau…”

Legal Representation in Evictions

Denver landlords tried to evict nearly 8,000 households last year. The success rate largely depended on one factor: attorneys., By Jennifer Brown, September 13, 2017, Denver Post: “Denver landlords tried to evict nearly 8,000 households last year. Their success depended largely on one factor: whether their tenants hired an attorney. And they almost never did. In Denver County eviction court, landlords have an attorney about 90 percent of the time. Tenants, on the other hand, are represented by counsel about 1 percent of the time, according to new research by the Colorado Center on Law and Policy, which reviewed 93,000 eviction filings from 2001 through last year…”

Natural Disaster Recovery

  • ‘Nowhere else to go’: Small Texas towns decimated by hurricane struggle to rebuild amid poverty, By Mary Lee Grant, September 10, 2017, Washington Post: “At a small rural hospital in this shrimping and tourist town of about 3,000, some patients visited the emergency room twice a day, obtaining insulin and other medications they could not afford to buy themselves. Nurses sometimes pooled their money to pay for patients’ cab fare home…”
  • Irma pushes Florida’s poor closer to the edge of ruin, By Jay Reeves (AP), September 14, 2017, Washington Post: “Larry and Elida Dimas didn’t have much to begin with, and Hurricane Irma left them with even less. The storm peeled open the roof of the old mobile home where they live with their 18-year-old twins, and it destroyed another one they rented to migrant workers in Immokalee, one of Florida’s poorest communities. Someone from the government already has promised aid, but Dimas’ chin quivers at the thought of accepting it…”
  • Homeless and in college. Then Harvey struck, By Anya Kamenetz, September 15, 2017, National Public Radio: “Christina Broussard was trapped in her grandmother’s living room for three days during Hurricane Harvey. Rain poured through the ceiling in the bathrooms and bedrooms. Broussard’s a student at Houston Community College. Her grandmother is 74 and uses a wheelchair…”
  • Texas CPS, foster-care providers go all out to protect vulnerable children from Hurricane Harvey, By Robert T. Garrett, September 11, 2017, Dallas Morning News: “Texas Child Protective Services and its contractors had to evacuate more than 400 foster kids in institutions because of Hurricane Harvey and, probably, hundreds more who lived in foster homes along the Gulf coast, protective services officials said Monday…”