It's tough to find a job these days. It's even harder to find a job that will pay you enough so that you can live comfortably.
I recently wrote in this column that an individual living in Chester County needs to earn approximately $17 per hour to afford a one bedroom apartment.
If a person is fortunate enough to find work, their employer may not provide a competitive wage, raises or benefits. Reasons why homelessness persists include stagnant or falling incomes and less secure jobs which offer fewer benefits.
Low-wage workers are particularly left behind as the disparity between rich and poor has mushroomed. To compound the problem, the real value of the minimum wage has decreased significantly in recent years.
Basically, this means that earning minimum wage in 2009 doesn't buy you as much as when you were making minimum wage in 1979.
Factors contributing to wage declines include a steep drop in the number and bargaining power of unionized workers; erosion in the value of the minimum wage; a decline in manufacturing jobs and the corresponding expansion of lower-paying service-sector employment; globalization; and increased nonstandard work, such as temporary and part-time employment.
To combat this, Congress has planned a gradual minimum wage increase, resulting in minimum wage raised to $9.50 by 2011.
Declining wages, in turn, have put housing out of reach for many workers: in every state, more than the minimum wage is required to afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment at Fair Market Rent.
A recent U.S. Conference of Mayors report stated that in every state more than the minimum-wage is required to afford a one or two-bedroom apartment at 30% of his or her income, which is the federal definition of affordable housing.
Unfortunately, for 12 million Americans, more then 50% of their salaries go towards renting or housing costs, resulting in sacrifices in other essential areas like health care and savings.
The connection between impoverished workers and homelessness can be seen in homeless shelters, many of which house significant numbers of full-time wage earners.
In 2007, a survey performed by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that 17.4% of homeless adults in families were employed while 13% of homeless single adults or unaccompanied youth were employed.
In the 2008 report, eleven out of nineteen cities reported an increase in employed homeless people.
With unemployment rates remaining high, jobs are hard to find in the current economy.
Even if people can find work, this does not automatically provide an escape from poverty. This should help to dispel the myth that homeless people and individuals living in poverty are lazy and lack ambition.
As we can see, in many cases it isn't for lack of trying that keeps a person in poverty it is a deficiency in opportunities.