California’s housing crisis is national and even at times international news. With housing costs trending upward and out of reach of even middle-class folks, more and more families and individuals are finding themselves stressed financially. According to a 2017 Public Policy Institute of California Statewide Survey, 47 percent of Californians—including 61 percent of renters—say housing costs are a financial strain.
We use the word ‘unhoused’ to shift away from cultural stereotypes of people who, for one reason or another, lack stable, adequate housing. The connotations of the word homelessness bring to mind a monolithic image of individual culpability. In reality, the causes and faces of homelessness are diverse. Homelessness also implies a lack of home, denying the ways in which people are resilient in making home & community even when they are without shelter. By contrast, unhoused emphasizes a lack of adequate shelter and draws attention to the lack of affordable housing supply. With this language, we invite our policymakers to look at people who are unhoused as
What do Lutherans have to say?
The social message “Homelessness: A Renewal of Commitment” notes that homelessness persists as a reality for hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, despite its immense wealth and resources. The message states that housing is a fundamental right even though policies and practices of government and economic institutions are not adequately responding. It reminds us that in the Bible, God heard the cries of the homeless and that working for justice with and for homeless people is doing God’s will and work in the world.
Christian love does not provide ready-made, one-size-fits-all solutions to the crisis, but the message calls Christians to walk with the homeless in their struggles and provides guidance as together we pursue just, appropriate and sustainable solutions that uphold human dignity.
What are our churches doing?
Around the state, Lutheran churches are actively involved in ministries for housing-unstable community members. A lot of these ministries meet immediate needs for food, clothing, hygiene, and human connection. Some churches donate to or run their own short or long-term housing and wrap-around services.
Housing in California
The Public Policy Institute of California Housing report examines the state of housing in California.
“California is home to the ten least-affordable major markets in the country and ranks near the top in cost-burdened households—second among homeowners and fourth among renters. It also has the second-highest homelessness rate, the second-lowest homeowner- ship rate, and the second-lowest number of housing units per capita. Of course, housing markets vary widely across the state. For example, housing is especially unaffordable in coastal areas, and homelessness is highest in Los Angeles. Increasing the supply of housing, improving affordability for low- and middle-income homeowners and renters, and addressing homelessness are critical issues for the state.”
A quarter of the nation’s homeless population lives in California. Between 2016 and 2017 the number of homeless people in California increased by 14 percent. About 32 percent of homeless Californians are in shelters or other residential programs—the lowest share in the nation.