Homelessness happens to most people when they cannot find housing they can afford, often because of an unforeseen circumstance like a sudden illness or loss of a job.
We are a little late in addressing this devastating natural disaster, but as with most wreckage on this scale, the true extent of the damage remains to be seen. NPR reported on Wednesday that thousands have been left without homes throughout the South. AFP reported entire neighborhoods wiped off the map.
After wading through the reports and photographs, one fact rang out to me – this was the worst natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. As we found in our State of Homelessness report released in January, when Hurricane Katrina struck much of the housing stock was decimated and the total number of people experiencing homelessness in the Gulf Coast increased by 325 percent.
That’s right, 325 percent.
This increase was due to a variety of reasons, including the loss of 82,000 rental units, a 45 percent increase in the cost of rental housing, and the loss of 5 hospitals and nearly 4,000 hospital and nursing beds. The hurricane also devastated much of the infrastructure necessary to deliver goods and services to people in need.
Our president, Nan Roman, remarked in a testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives after Katrina, ”[s]urely, at a minimum, Hurricane Katrina must not be allowed to increase the number of poor and homeless people in our nation, long term.”
Those who were vulnerable before the tornadoes are surely in peril at this moment. Let’s not let them down.
Image courtesy of Jamiesrabbits.