Housing Insecurity: The elephant in the room | Editorial

You may or may not be experiencing it yourself, but you most likely know someone who is. Especially in a small community like ours. It may not be written plainly across their face or emblazoned on their t-shirt, but it’s ever-present for those going through it.

You wake to it. You fall asleep with it. It haunts you throughout the day.

Every decision you make is affected by it. It hangs over your head and creeps into your thoughts like a dark cloud that only you can see and feel.

Not knowing where you’re going to live next month, next week, or even tomorrow is incredibly stressful. It affects a person’s mental, physical and emotional health. It can and will strain relationships, erode self-esteem, and likely even interfere with job performance.

When children are involved it places a heavy burden of stress and guilt upon those charged with raising those children under that intense strain. No parent or guardian wants to feel helpless when it comes to providing for their children, but that’s exactly what it feels like.

Worst of all, how does it affect the children who are going through it? And what might this teach them about their role in society? Are they insignificant? Do their lives matter?

Children especially need a stable home life to thrive and grow. If they’re constantly moving in and out of boxes and bedrooms (if they’re lucky) with no clear place to call their own, this erodes the very foundation of their mental, physical, and emotional development. This can easily translate to poor school performance, erosion of interpersonal relationships, and stunted professional growth. Studies have shown that children moving three or more times in one year are more likely to have chronic health conditions and poor health.

For families struggling with housing insecurity, or the ever-present threat of losing their shelter to the whims of an already challenging housing environment, there is little sense of security upon which to build a positive home life.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, rental markets with few affordable vacancies may force people to rent substandard housing that exposes them to health and safety risks, such as vermin, mold, water leaks, and inadequate heating or cooling systems. They may also be forced to move in with others, potentially resulting in overcrowding, which can affect mental health, stress levels, relationships and may increase the risk of infectious disease.

If you’re lucky in this current housing situation you may find a caring landlord that provides a long-term rental for you and your family at a reasonable rate that encourages and nurtures a sense of community. But in these challenging economic times, these opportunities are becoming few and far between.

This affects us all in one way or another, whether we like it or not. And while much is being done to mitigate housing insecurity in the county, those suffering in silence are not to be forgotten.