For people struggling to pay the rent, a serious illness or disability can start a downward spiral into destitution and homelessness. Add to this, a lost job, depletion of savings and running out of unemployment insurance, and the prospect of homelessness can become a very real and frightening reality.
As home foreclosures continue to pull down the economy, renters who have been lawfully living in their landlord's foreclosed properties and who continue to faithfully pay their rent are among those most at risk of homelessness. But in the past, their plight and that of their children have attracted little if any public attention or scrutiny.
Over 38% of families currently facing eviction due to foreclosure are low-income renters who have little if any legal protections. If a landlord is being foreclosed, his or her tenants who have been diligently paying their full rent on time may still face eviction without notice, only to come home to find their locks switched out and their personal belongings gone.
While states have jurisdictional authority and responsibility to assist low-income renters who are caught up in their landlord’s foreclosure, in practice, the state protections have been few and often too late. Many low-income renters are often unaware they even have legal rights until after they have been evicted from their residence.
The federal government recently passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The new law provides for, among other things, a $1.5 billion dollar homelessness prevention fund to help families at risk of becoming homeless. The program helps low income tenants pay rent and utility bills, as well as offering basic housing expenses for short time periods.
Pending legislation (Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act of 2009) has been slated for passage this year and is designed to protect the rights of low-income renters occupying housing units that are in foreclosure. Among other things, the new measure will protect renters living in foreclosed properties by requiring the new purchasers of these properties to serve the tenants with a minimum 90 days notice prior to beginning the eviction process.
Sadly, the most vulnerable, yet forgotten victims of today’s foreclosure crisis, have been the young dependent children of low-income renters who end up facing homelessness along with their parents. Consequently, parents have been forced to entrust their children with relatives or close friends in order to save them from the experience of homelessness. The break-up of families is a well-documented and continuing occurrence in major metropolitan urban centers.
Of the major metropolitan areas surveyed, homeless families had been broken up in order to enter emergency shelters in increasing and alarming numbers. An estimated ninety-two percent of all major metropolitan areas have reported marked increases in homelessness as a result of the current foreclosure crisis, with low-income renters and their children being among the most vulnerable to the crisis.
Child advocacy groups across the country have been demanding that renters who do no wrong, shouldn't have to pay the price of being evicted without the necessary time to make alternative living arrangements which include making special accommodations for the safety and education their children.
For more information on the consequences of homelessness and how to avoid or prepare for such a possibility, visit GotTrouble.com