Perspective: I Was Homeless. Housing Made All the Difference

The author is a person who has experienced homelessness in Houston, TX. 

For most of my childhood, my mom worked minimum wage jobs and we lived in government housing.

When Hurricane Ike devastated much of Houston in 2008 and the roof fell in our apartment, we moved without giving the mandated 30 day notice, and were subsequently kicked off of housing assistance for years.

Unable to keep up with the rising cost of living in a recession without housing assistance, my family moved over 10 times in the next half decade while we waited to get back on housing assistance. I spent most of my high school years bouncing between various couches and market price apartments with my mom.

For over a year and a half, we lived in a homeless shelter. We did not settle down in a secure home until we became eligible for Section 8 again, after several years, and much of my adolescence, had passed.

Natural disasters and unforeseen crises, like Hurricane Ike, or the COVID-19 pandemic, can mean the worst for those who are already living at the brink. They can hit any time, any place, and tear away a family’s last ties to secure housing.

When I think about what it would take for our country to eradicate homelessness, I often think of raising the minimum wage, increasing government transfers and reducing red tape during natural disasters, and improving the quality and equalizing the distribution of social services (such as education, job training, mental health and substance abuse resources, and so forth). Those changes are also necessary to decrease the volume of people who are housing insecure.

But more than anything else, I know that the only way we can truly eradicate homelessness is through providing homes. Many U.S. cities are increasingly populated with apartments and homes that are vacant for extended periods of time. Countless studies have shown that providing homes to homeless people is generally more cost effective and impactful than other interventions.

Supportive housing could have made scores of difference in my family’s case.

No family, no child, no person should have to experience homelessness in the country. I look forward to seeing the day when experiences like mine are a thing of the past completely.