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Homelessness During the Pandemic

The effects of Covid-19 have been widespread – but one area that the pandemic has particularly impacted has been the percentage of homeless individuals. According to the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, the homeless population was over 580,000 individuals in 2021, a 2% increase from 2020. The driving force behind this increase is likely a combination of financial strain and health concerns related to the pandemic.

In January of 2021, the United Way analyzed what states had the most prominent eviction notices during the pandemic. Arizona, Texas, and Tennessee were the top three states. Job losses and health concerns drove many of these evictions – and individuals who may have been living with a tight budget likely would have been unable to afford rent without a steady income. Additional studies have shown that the pandemic disproportionately financially affected lower-income individuals who already had less of a financial buffer between themselves and homelessness. Those individuals in a lower-income bracket may have been negatively affected by the necessary quarantine period after contracting coronavirus. Although many employers provide PTO and sick leave, individuals without this benefit could miss up to 14 days of wages. These two weeks of pay could be the deciding factor for whether many individuals can afford their rent and other bills.

Another aspect of the pandemic that has affected homeless services is supportive shelters shutting down due to lack of labor or health concerns. Many individuals who previously had a bed in a homeless shelter became more likely to avoid these shelters out of fear of the virus. In addition to decreased homeless shelter capacity, many food banks and soup kitchens experienced labor shortages and reduced stock. Supply chain shortages compounded the issue throughout the pandemic – leaving many lower-income individuals without access to this necessary service.

The financial impacts of the corona-virus pandemic were extensive. However, a few key industries were particularly affected. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the leisure and hospitality sector lost 9.4 million jobs in 2020. Jobs that rely on tourism and travel were the most affected by Covid-19, including hotels and restaurants. Individuals in these industries may not have had the ability to find other work, thus forcing them to receive unemployment benefits in the interim. In addition, 74% of small businesses reported adverse effects from the pandemic – leading to decreased wages and intermittent work for their employees. These factors likely left a significant component of the population without a job and support during a global crisis.

Fortunately, the increased response from several philanthropists mitigates the rise in homelessness. In many ways and using different venues, they are stepping up to meet the increasing challenges. These philanthropists don’t seek to be in the spotlight and instead choose to make their contributions behind the scenes, like Dr. Ariadna Balaguer, the daughter of former President Joaquin Balaguer. Dr. Balaguer is well known for teaming up with organizations that help the homeless and families in need. Joining this list of well-known philanthropists, we find the Irish singer and songwriter Bono and rock star legend Jon Bon Jovi.

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