In the news

An epidemic of homelessness in a time of national prosperity

October 6, 2019

Dear Constituent:

Affordable Housing Resource Guide

If you are struggling to pay the rent, "doubled-up" with family or friends, or homeless, please check out the City of Columbia's Affordable Housing Resource Guide. This brand new publication provides a comprehensive overview of homelessness services, public and private low-income rental housing opportunities, and home-buyer assistance - with contact information for dozens of local organizations.

Housing insecurity is a serious and growing challenge in Columbia. According to the City's [Affordable Housing and Community Development Fact Sheet] , about 13,000 rental households (56% of renters) and more than 3,000 owner-occupied households (27% of owners) are "cost-burdened" by 30% or more. Because at least 30% of their income goes to housing and utilities, these families and individuals are in a fragile economic situation and at high risk of becoming homeless.

Columbia's housing crisis - which is replicated across the country - requires political leadership and authentic community discourse. In order to build the public support necessary to enact policies and practices that will give Columbia's poorest residents some level of housing security, those of us privileged to be immunized from these devastating conditions must engage with them.

A Slippery Slope: From Housing Cost-Burdened to Homeless

In his recent article, The New American Homeless, reporter Brian Goldstone puts a human face (actually, an entire family of human faces) on the cold, hard statistics of the housing crisis.

From August, 2018 to February, 2019, Goldstone followed health aide Cokethia Goodman and her family while they:

  • Lost their home to gentrification,
  • Moved into a dilapidated house that was quickly deemed "unsafe and unsanitary" by the Housing Inspector,
  • Stayed briefly in a cheap motel more than an hour's bus ride from Cokethia's work and her children's schools,
  • Found themselves crammed into a single room in the apartment of a relative who resented them being there, and
  • Applied for and were denied public assistance because they were not (yet) living on the street.

It is a tale of economic inequality, housing discrimination and segregation, gentrification and displacement, inadequate public transportation, network poverty, and the "working homeless." In case you do not have time to read the entire article, here are a few excerpts:

  • "For ... the nearly seven million American workers living below the poverty line, a combination of skyrocketing rents, stagnant wages, and a lack of tenant protections has proved all but insurmountable."
  • "Unemployment is at a generational low; corporate profits have surged; the signs of growth ... are everywhere. Yet the teachers, maintenance workers, supermarket cashiers, and medical assistants who help sustain these cities are getting relentlessly priced out.
  • Last year, ... more than half a million people were homeless on any given night. Unlike earlier periods of widespread homelessness and displacement, ... what we're witnessing today is an emergency born less of poverty than prosperity — occurring not despite but precisely because of the economic boom.
  • "“ We all too often have socialism for the rich,” Martin Luther King Jr. famously noted, “and rugged free-enterprise capitalism for the poor.”"

If you are experiencing housing insecurity, please take a look at the Affordable Housing Resource Guide and feel free to connect with me so I can share your story (anonymously) with a wider audience.

And if you feel the City of Columbia should be doing something to address this issue here in our community, please let me know what policy steps you think we should take.

2019 Heart of Missouri United Way Community Summit

Housing policy will be on the agenda at the 2019 Heart of Missouri United Way Community Summit - Wednesday, October 23rd, 8:00 am - 4:00 pm, in the Shelter Insurance Training Center, at 1817 West Broadway.

If you can, please dedicate this day to learning about poverty in our community and the inter-related issues of health, housing, transportation, and living-wage jobs. This annual event bridges the fields of research and practice by engaging community residents, service providers, local employers and other key stakeholders in defining the next steps in creating access to success for all. The 2019 Community Summit will inform Heart of Missouri United Way 2020 Basic Needs and Health Impact grant targets.

Register here.

PedNet Community Survey

For almost two decades, the PedNet Coalition has advocated for safe, affordable transportation options for all Columbia residents.

In order to help develop PedNet's priorities for their 2020 Strategic Plan, please take 10 minutes to complete the PedNet Community Survey. You will respond to questions about how you currently travel in Columbia, what barriers or opportunities you see, and how PedNet can improve transportation options.

The survey will be open through Sunday, October 20, and all respondents will be entered into a drawing for one of four $50 Gerbes gift cards.

Constituent Conversations

I am holding Constituent Conversations at Dunn Bros. Coffee today from 2-4pm and then again on Sunday, October 27th. Upcoming dates are always available here at my web site.

Cheers, Ian