The Housing Issue
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Politics and Activism

The Housing Issue

Athens Clarke County continues to be affected by more than homelessness this year.

The Housing Issue
Zoe Smith

This past week I went on a service trip to Tuscaloosa, Alabama with UGA Impact and learned about the issue of affordable housing. After working with Habitat for Humanity and a local soup kitchen I realized that many of the issues surrounding housing in Tuscaloosa correlated to similar issues to where I live in Athens, Georgia. Because of this, I decided to do a little digging about homelessness and poverty in Athens, and the results were quite disheartening.

According to a 2014 report, the rate of homeless people in Athens Clarke County is equal to that of the national average. That is, 21 individuals are homeless per 10,000 people. That’s about 62 percent higher than the percentage of homeless people in Atlanta. Of those who are homeless, 18 percent are classified as chronically homeless. To be a chronically homeless person you must be “either an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years.”

While these statistics may not be too surprising to those who are aware of the current economic state of Athens, they are still heartbreaking.

However, homelessness isn’t the only housing issue towns like Athens are faced with. Many people overlook the scarcity of affordable housing in areas such as Clarke County. In Athens, almost 37 percent of residents live below the poverty level. Over 56 percent of households spend 35 percent or more of their income on rent; the general rule of thumb is to not spend more than 30 percent of your average income on housing. While there are government programs available to aid low-income families with these staggering housing costs, many households find it difficult to find landlords willing to take their vouchers. Some argue that accepting such vouchers make their establishment less appealing to current residents (mainly college students) even though having families with the vouchers would be a more reliable source of rent.

So what does this mean for Athens Clarke County families? For one, families may be forced to live out of cars, motels, or other unrealistic living conditions. Other basic needs, such as adequate food and clothing, may be forfeited to pay the high cost of living.

How can I help? There are many organizations throughout the Athens Clarke County area that allow volunteers. The names with links to volunteer information for some of these organizations are listed below:

Bigger Vision

Athens Area Homeless Shelter

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