When it brings more evictions
In the first installment of this series on the four obstacles to housing stability – conviction, eviction, low income and disability – director of housing at Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph Jarrod Sanderson explained how a past conviction can frustrate housing stability, making it seem almost unattainable. Today, we’re addressing the second topic, evictions. A seasoned veteran with over 40 years of non-profit experience, Jan Motl, director of Catholic Charities northwest office located in St. Joseph, explains why “good” housing news isn’t always so good.QJan, when many people hear news that the housing market is “good” and that housing prices or property values are on the rise, they think it’s a good thing. Yet, for many the exact opposite is true. Why? AIncreased property values often bring increased rent, and increased rent points to more evictions. According to national statistics, when rent goes up, so do the number of evictions. So, even though the housing market has recovered, we are now experiencing an “affordable housing crisis,” especially for low-income families. In the 1970s many affordable housing options existed. Individuals and families who lost housing could quickly find another place to live. But, since then, there’s been a decrease in the supply of low-cost housing, rental costs have risen, and low-income wages have stagnated. The combination of these things contributes to the current housing crisis, which means greater housing instability and increased homelessness. While some states have raised minimum wages, nowhere in the country can someone working a full-time minimum wage job afford to rent a modest two-bedroom apartment. QWhat does that mean locally, say, within the 27-county area Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph serves?
AFrom 2000 to 2015, Kansas City saw an average of 27 evictions per day. This means one family or one individual every single day in each county we serve, experiences eviction. Think about that. QIs Kansas City unique compared to other cities?
AThe numbers underscore the prevalence of evictions in the Kansas City area. Studies have shown that nearly three out of every 100 renters in Jackson County lost their homes in 2016 — a rate almost 20 percent higher than the national average. QWhat are the common reasons for evictions?
AThe most frequently sited reasons for rental evictions are lack of rental payment, late rental payment, property damage, disturbances or disruptions of other tenants. But, the eviction itself is usually a manifestation of other issues:
Poverty: Homelessness and poverty are intricately linked. People in poverty are frequently unable to pay for food, clothing, transportation, health care and housing. When all expenses cannot be covered, often housing expenses, which take up the highest proportion of income, are not paid.
Health: A physical or mental health crisis or long-term disabling condition requiring costly treatment may lead to an eviction and/or homelessness. I know we’ll talk more about this as the series continues but, lack of affordable health care is another factor. Additionally, homelessness may cause or intensify previous health problems. Many believe that addiction can cause homelessness or it can arise after an individual becomes homeless.
Domestic violence: At times a domestic violence victim must choose between staying with the abuser or becoming homeless. This not only pertains to adult victims, but children are often involved and subsequently displaced.
Racial inequality: Minorities often experience disparities in poverty, employment, health care, and criminal justice, which leaves them at risk for housing instability or homelessness.
In my 40 years of experience, these issues typically do not stand alone, they often co-occur, leaving a complex network of concerns that accelerates a downward spiral.QHow does Catholic Charities uniquely help?
AI’d say in 5 ways:
- Permanent Supportive Housing has been demonstrated to effectively end homelessness (we provide this through our Community Housing Program). This is long-term rental assistance and supportive services targeted toward families/individuals with disabilities who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness. Typically, Catholic Charities Permanent Supportive Housing programs provide 75 – 80 families/individuals with this service at any given time.
- Supportive Services for Veteran Families provides housing assistance and other services specifically for veterans and their families.
- Employment Services assist in preparing individuals for the workplace by helping them attain and maintain employment. This lowers the chances of being unstably housed or homeless.
- Really all of our agency services work to provide services and assistance that prevents homelessness either directly or indirectly.
- And, finally, one of our greatest strengths is community collaborations. This is where we work with other agencies in assessing and addressing community needs. For example, in St. Joseph our only Emergency Shelter recently shut down and we are working with several groups to find answers for the chronically homeless.
For more information about our housing initiatives, contact Jan Motl at (816) 232-2885 or email her at email@example.com