Late yesterday evening, I ran into a friend of mine who mentioned that she’s going to be moving out of the San Luis Obispo area.
She has had a series of health related issues that keep her from being able to work full time. Now, as a result, she’s unable to afford to pay her rent. In fact, she will be moving out of her place at the beginning of next month and moving in with a family member in another part of the state, where she hopes she can have an opportunity to rebuild her life.
"Cassie" is just one of countless people across the nation who will become "couch homeless" this year.
The couch homeless – or as they are officially referred to: the "precariously housed" – are a growing segment of homeless in our communities. They are homeless in the sense that they cannot afford a place of their own, but they are not homeless in that they do not utilize homeless support services as often – if at all – as other homeless.
The couch homeless are persons who will avoid homeless shelters by staying with family or friends while they are trying to rebuild their lives. Unfortunately, many of them will eventually "out live" their welcome and find themselves relying on homeless support services to survive.
While they are technically homeless, since they do not use homeless support services, it is difficult to know exactly how many couch homeless there are throughout the nation – or even who they are. This means that someone you know or one of your co-workers could be couch homeless.
One report estimates that 1.65% of America’s population are couch homeless. Considering that the population in the U.S. hit the 300 million mark in 2006, that would mean that 4.95 million people are couch homeless. That number exceeds the estimated 3.5 million people who are known to be homeless!
Some analysts believe that homelessness will sooner or later reach a "critical" stage. However, based on statistical numbers that I’ve been able to research, I would say that point in time was reached quite some time ago. What is more, the situation will only continue to get worse unless we actively begin taking appropriate action to effectively reduce the numbers of homeless.
We need to realize and, admit to ourselves, that the stereotypical image we have of whom and what the homeless are is an illusion. The homeless of today come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and from an extensively diverse background. The homeless of today are not just stinky, smelly winos. They are men, woman, children, senior citizens, persons with disabilities, veterans – they are people.
As for my friend Cassie, although I’m going to miss her, I hope that she doesn’t become one of our nations "full fledged" homeless. I hope that moving in with her family will buy her the needed time to rebuild her life.