This is what it looks like when you're part of the working poor.
When Henry was laid off three and a half years ago, his family was forced to leave their house.
The house they were renting had mold in the basement. Though Lisette was working two part-time jobs, they couldn't find another place to live.
They tried to access programs for people who needed help — but they didn't meet the requirements.
They searched for programs that could help but didn't qualify because they didn't have problems with substance abuse and had some income.
And the homeless shelters they looked at didn't provide for their needs because not all shelters are set up for families. Some wanted to split them up by gender.
Now, they're living in an apartment that doesn't feel like home and costs too much. More than half their income goes to rent and utilities.
Living paycheck-to-paycheck is pretty much standard operating procedure for millions of families in our country.
In fact, paying at least half of monthly income for rent is a reality for about 1 in 4 U.S. renters.
The Great Recession had a lot to do with this.
Roughly 6 million homeowners lost their homes through foreclosure since 2008, which put more pressure on the rental market. And beyond that, a lot of folks who were just getting their start in the working world (hello, 20-somethings) began their adult careers far behind where they should have been.
As of 2013, the typical renter's income had fallen by more than 10% since 2001 (after adjusting for inflation) while the median rent had increased by 5%.
And, according to Make Room, 9 million kids are on the brink of homelessness because their parents can barely afford to pay rent.
The thing is, this is not simply inevitable. It can be fixed.
That's good news for folks like Lisette and Henry.
Make Room is a nonprofit campaign for renters that is working to fix this problem by:
- creating a network of companies, nonprofits, advocates, and policymakers to invest in affordable homes and advocate for change.
- campaigning to change policies and increase both the affordability and development of rentals.
- raising awareness among policymakers and the media about the economic squeeze renters face today.
- telling the stories of people who rent and organizing forums where the conversations begin (or continue). This includes working with celebrities and songwriters who are committed to the cause and want to help spread the word.
Recently, Carly Rae Jepsen stepped up to help spread the word.
Help support Make Room's efforts in 2016 for families like the Duartes and 11 million households in need.
To help Make Room do great stuff like pass initiatives in key places and increase the supply of affordable homes, check out their holiday challenge. It's a gift worth considering this holiday season.
Listen to the Duarte family's emotional story here. It might strike a chord: