More Americans Forced to Live in Their Cars Due to COVID Hardships
The number is likely to grow as government nets safety begins to buckle
As the coronavirus pandemic pushes more and more Americans into financial hardship, some are now forced to live in their vehicles.
The number is likely to grow as government safety nets begin to buckle amid the rise in evictions and foreclosures.
According to a postdoctoral scholar with the Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative at the University of California, San Francisco’s Center for Vulnerable Populations, the pandemic is making the housing crisis worse.
Graham Pruss said:
“We have seen more people moving into vehicles and more restrictions on public parking for them over the last decade, and then COVID hit."
“I am concerned that we may be facing a population increase in mobile sheltering and vehicle residence at unprecedented levels.”
According to USA Today:
Nearly 1 in 500 Americans are homeless, with the majority on the West Coast and in the Northeast.
Those who do not have permanent housing are often ignored, according to people who work to raise awareness for the homeless.
Those who are living in their vehicle are challenging to track because they move a lot.
The executive director of HOPE Homeless Outreach in Longmont, Joseph Zanovitch, said, “We call people living in vehicles the hidden homeless population.”
Vehicles are used instead of helters and encampments because they offer more privacy and protect people from the elements and keep families together.
Additionally, living in a vehicle allows people to keep a distance from others amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Nonprofits, churches, and local governments in California and Washington state have reportedly started to help by offering overnight parking lots for people living in their cars.
The lots have “portable toilets and showers and caseworkers to help secure permanent housing.”
However, some non-profit workers like Kristine Schwarz, the New Beginnings Counseling Center executive director, have concerns about funding.
USA Today reports:
“Because of the way stimulus and other funds are allocated, many nonprofits like hers are ineligible for assistance, Schwarz says.”
“We are very concerned about what is going to happen when we deplete the financial assistance funds we have and don’t have access to additional funding sources,” she says.
“There is simply not enough financial support to go around.”
The economic shutdowns have caused a massive spike in homelessness over the past year as many continue to struggle since the pandemic began.