Rural homelessness is a difficult social problem to study. Those who are affected are separated from services by an even greater distance, and are even more invisible than those affected in urban or suburban settings, where residences, businesses, and shopping districts are close together. As a result, those who find themselves homeless in rural locales are in a particularly vulnerable position.
The persistence of this issue has to do with the many similarities and differences from homelessness in the urban setting. A study by Bread for the World Institute found that “…fewer job opportunities, lower wages, and longer periods of unemployment also plague the rural poor more often than their urban counterparts. These factors combined with the environment of the housing market crash and slow recession recovery leave this population especially underserved and vulnerable.
The Housing Assistance Council reports that a need for structural home renovation is another factor that cuts across rural and urban homelessness, saying, “Problems of housing quality also contribute to [rural] homelessness. Rural residential histories reveal that homelessness is often precipitated by a structural or physical housing problem jeopardizing health or safety; when families relocate to safer housing, the rent is often too much to manage and they experience homelessness again while searching for housing that is both safe and affordable.”
There are a variety of unmet needs that unilaterally contribute to homelessness regardless of metro, rural, or suburban settings. These include, “jobs that pay a living wage, adequate income supports for those who cannot work, affordable housing, access to health care, and transportation.”
A recent article in the Lehigh Valley Morning Call linked cuts to General Assistance in the last state budget go round with the number of individuals in areas throughout the state who now find themselves homeless, stating, “One recent day, a few [homeless people struggling to survive without any income] gathered at Safe Harbor Easton, where the shelter's executive director, Tyler Rogers, decried the state's elimination of the General Assistance cash grant program [which] provided a monthly stipend of more than $200 to about 70,000 Pennsylvanians.”
If you wish to find out more about this topic, join us for "Rural Homelessness - Learning from Others - Defining Ourselves”. This is an education forum at at Bloomsburg University in Columbia County.
- Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania
- Columbia Montour County Homeless Task Force
- Bloomsburg University
- Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia
- First Columbia Bank and Trust
- First Keystone Community Bank