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Generally, the ultimate goal in life is to maintain health and becoming economically self-sufficient. This idea seems relatively simple and obtainable but for most of the nation’s population this is not true. According to the Central Intelligence Agency, approximately 15% of the population is below the poverty line (Central Intelligence Agency US, 2018). In Arizona alone, poverty rate was 14.9% leaving about 1 million below poverty level (Clo, 2018). With so many individuals living below poverty level, it is a pretty much guarantee that health and self-sufficiency is affected.
Many social issues and problems are affected one’s ability to maintain their health and self-sufficiency, often times related to their housing or economic situation. Barriers to self-sufficiency can include lack of affordable housing, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, lack of income, familial status and more. Each of the barriers mentioned, has played a part in the contribution to the rising eviction epidemic that we are facing today. In Maricopa County last year, there were approximately 62,800 eviction suits with two thirds ending in judgements not only to pay but an order to remove their belongings in five days (Woods & Philip, 2018).
Large in part, lack of income and lack of disposable income plays a major role in the ability to maintain both health and economic self-sustainability. Most poor renting families spend at least half of their income on housing costs. With the little disposable income that is left, families and individuals are left to decide on whether or not to spend the remaining on food, utilities, or their healthcare costs.
It is often that, something isn’t paid that can further put them in debt. A Study produced by the Urban Institute noted that, “low-income American adults also have higher rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and other chronic disorders than wealthier Americans” and that low “income is also associated with mental health” (Woolf, et al., 2015). Constantly trying to stay afloat, families are doing their best to keep some form of shelter even if it means risking their economic and health situations. Lack of income is one social issues but certainly not the only one that impacts or inhibits one from moving forward in life.
Because lack of income is one sphere of the spectrum, lack of affordable housing is another part of the pie that impacts the ability of maintaining health and economic self-sufficiency. No state has an adequate supply of affordable rental housing for the lowest income renters. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in Arizona there are only 55,177 affordable and available rental homes to 214,776 extremely low income renter households (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2016). Seventy-Five (75) percent of renters at extremely low income suffer with severe cost burden and are at risk for housing instability, evictions, and homelessness. With the lack of affordable housing and severe costs burdens, economic stability and health are negatively impacted.
Amongst lack of income and lack of affordable housing, barriers such as lack of education, familial status, and more affects self-sufficiency and contributes to the increase of evictions. Lack of education can inhibit growth towards self-sufficiency can look like many things. It can be the inability to properly read and understand the lease terms. Or the inability to represent or relay communication to the landlords, property owners, or even in a court room. Lack of education can feed into lack of income, so does familial status. Familial status can inhibit growth towards economic self-sufficiency in many ways as well. The size of the family, one parent vs. two parent household, child care costs, limited work possibilities, and more. Often times, for the reasons just mentioned, families have to decide between food and/or shelter. This is a difficult decision to make. All of which can affect health and create disparities across the populations.
The increase of evictions are attributed to many things however, the after affects or trauma of an eviction that can possibly lead towards homelessness is even more daunting. We are seeing an increase of first time homeless households and an increase in the unsheltered population in Maricopa County entering into the homeless system every year. It is clear that the lack of income and the lack of affordable housing is playing into this overall epidemic. Households cannot progress to become economically self-sustained/sufficient and protect their health with continually facing these barriers. Eviction Prevention is needed to be able to respond to the increase of evictions and writs of restitution in Maricopa County. Also, it is equally important to provide increased access to informative and efficient services so that we continually serve citizens and being responsive toward their needs to build a better county and state.
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