Homelessness and Unemployment

By J MONSON
Columnist

America has experienced a national economic recession in the last few years. While some economists point to signs that there is a slow recovery in sight, the fact remains that the recession has crippled the workforce in America. Recessions often take heavy tolls on middle and lower class workers. Once confidence in the economy wanes, companies begin to lay off employees. These circumstances lead to fewer jobs and more people looking for work. If the economy cannot recover, extended unemployment racks the population, and this can lead to increased homelessness in communities all around America.

When people cannot find immediate work yet still need to support themselves and their families, one option is to apply for temporary unemployment benefits. According to the Georgia Bureau of Labor Statistics, for the past five years, the number of initial claims has risen by approximately 7,000 people per year. These numbers helped to raise the unemployment rate in counties all across Georgia.

The current unemployment rate for Georgia is one of the highest in the nation. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of July 2013, Georgia experienced an 8.8 percent unemployment rate. This percentage has dropped compared to last July when Georgia experienced an unemployment rate of 9.1 percent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data shows that Athens-Clarke County’s unemployment rate went from 4.2 percent in 2008 to its peak in June of 2011 at 8 percent unemployment. According to the Georgia Department of Community affairs, from 2008-2009, there were approximately 434 homeless people living in Athens-Clarke County. As Athens-Clarke County’s unemployment rate began to recede so did the number of homeless individuals. In July 2013 the unemployment rate was at 6.9 percent and the number of homeless people in Athens-Clarke County was approximately 214 individuals. The unemployment rate of a county is not the single factor to what causes homelessness but it adds to the problem.

As workers lose their jobs, not only do they suffer mentally and economically, but their families and communities suffer as well. When people cut back on their spending due to loss of revenue, this causes a lack of need for goods and services. The loss of production and services cripples other sectors of the economy as well. As one group of employees is laid off, it creates a domino effect of unemployment in the community.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, if a person is fortunate enough to find a job after being laid off and unemployed, on average their new job pays about 13 percent less because of the entry level status. This can cause the individual to experience difficulties paying for a mortgage or sustaining money for rent and groceries.  If an individual or family did not save for emergencies such as the sudden loss of a job, it can lead to situational or transitional homelessness.