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Archive for December, 2009

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Affordable, secure, housing is a basic necessity for any individual to survive. It becomes especially important for people who are going through or have experienced trauma. As one can imagine, and as thousands in Buffalo can attest to, homelessness is not only a massive issue itself but it also complicates almost every aspect of daily life and greatly exacerbates the effects of any other issue a person may be experiencing.

The following articles demonstrate just how much of an impact affordable housing can have on the lives of people and families in crisis:

Fraud, Cancer, House Collapse: Adversity Inspires Philly Mom To Pay It Forward
, ‘Machias Makeover’ Aids Family in Need, PUSH Activists Step Into ‘Makeover’ Spotlight, New Shelter Prepares to Open Doors in Buffalo

Terrible things happen to everyone, regardless of how much money one makes. There is little any individual, community, or government agency can do to anticipate or prevent this; it’s one of those facts of life. Fortunately, many of us have decent paying jobs and have been able to save up some money which can be used to get us through the rough patches. Unfortunately, many individuals are paid very little (see previous post “Paychecks and Poverty”) and cannot save up money for emergencies. When tragedy hits low-income, low-wealth people they have little to fall back on and often times are unable to afford basic necessities such as housing.
Communities and governments can play a part here. Providing affordable housing helps stabilize people in crisis and helps keep them from having to rely on much more costly emergency services. It literally provides a firm home base from which a person can work through the issues they are facing. These stories and the stories of thousands of people who have been affected by the work of organizations like Project H.O.M.E., the entire Machias community, PUSH, and Lake Shore Behavioral Health attest to the value and importance of ensuring that affordable housing is available for all people.

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Paychecks and Poverty

In “What 537 different jobs pay in WNY”, Buffalo Business First reports on the Bureau of Labor’s occupation-income statistics for the Buffalo Metro Area, the third poorest city in the country. While their reporting focused on the highest paid professions in the area, we dug further into the numbers…

Over 221,000 of the 581,800 workers in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Metro Area earn less than $28,912 a year, the amount required to afford* a two-bedroom apartment plus utilities. In fact six out of the top ten most common occupations in the area do not pay enough for the worker to afford a two-bedroom apartment.

The most common occupation in the area, retail salesperson, paid $24,000 a year, barely enough to afford a one-bedroom apartment plus utilities.

The Food Stamp Income Eligibility Limit for a three person household is $23,808 a year. Over 100,000 people in the area work jobs that could qualify them for food stamps if they were the sole earner in a three person household.

What does this mean? It means that there are tens of thousands of working people in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls area who are being paid so little that they cannot afford basic housing and could probably qualify for food stamps.

And this says nothing for the nearly 9% of workers in the area who are unemployed.

What relationship do these numbers have with the fact that Buffalo is one of the poorest cities in the country?

It’s tempting to say that Buffalo is an extremely cheap place to live but for the person making less than $25,000 a year, is it really that cheap?

The connection between low-wages and poverty needs to be made much clearer. There will always be people living in poverty so long as the wages offered by employers are not enough for people to afford basic housing and food.

*Housing is generally accepted to be affordable when a household spends 30% of its income on housing. The Fair Market Rent (rent plus utilities) for a two-bedroom in the Buffalo-Niagara Falls Metro Area is $723/month.

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