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As Temperatures Drop, What Do You Do If You Don’t Have Shelter?

As Temperatures Drop, What Do You Do If You Don’t Have Shelter?

Homeless man

Cold weather has sunk in for many of us as winter is now in full swing. For some of us, this means having to don heavy coats and scarves, and wearing boots to trudge through the snow. The daily annoyance of winter is a concern for many, but the hardship of the cold is a grueling reality for people experiencing homelessness throughout America. The winter can bring illness, bitter discomfort and tragic conditions for those forced to live with the reality of the weather without the comfort of shelter and a place to call home.

The Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University issued a report this year that outlines many of the challenges for meeting the demand for affordable housing. The report highlights several troubling trends in the housing market. Rising housing costs are frequently cited as progress for the economy, but it is important to remember the implications this has for low-income individuals and families. Over 11 million Americans are spending half their income or more on rent, which leaves little money for other basic necessities such as food, transportation, and healthcare.

Overall, the number of people experiencing homeless has dropped since 2010. The November 2016 report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development is welcome news that demonstrates the power that federal and local programs have had in combatting this issue. Chronic homelessness has dropped 35% since 2007, which is also indicative of the success of several federal and state programs targeted at the issue. However, some cities and states have seen an uptick in those experiencing homelessness. Some of this can be tied to the lack of access to affordable housing.

The lack of funding for affordable housing programs has made it very difficult for many families to access the resources they need. Some of this can be attributed to reduced spending on housing due to the Budget Control Act of 2011: 100,000 families lost access to HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher program and 60,000 fewer people received assistance  through HUD Homeless Assistance Grants. Access to affordable housing is a central ingredient for combatting poverty in America. Better access to affordable housing has been found to be one of the single most effective ways of combatting childhood poverty.

Since Abraham, our tradition has demanded that we act with hospitality to the stranger, to the passerby in need of food and shelter. In today’s world, this demand must be made on our society as a whole, because only collectively can we hope to root out the problem of homelessness and inadequate access to affordable housing.

Read more about this issue on our page dedicated to housing and homelessness, as well the National Low Income Housing Coalition website, where you can learn what action you can take about this important issue.


Nathan Bennett is a Legislative Associate at the Religious Action Center. Previously, he served as a 2016-2017 Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. Originally from Wilmette, IL, he is a member of Ner Tamid Ezra Habonim Egalitarian Minyan and graduated from Northwestern University.

Nathan Bennett

Published: 1/11/2017