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Pandemic-Driven Homelessness Will Double That Of The Great Recession, Analysis Finds

A tent city in Reno, Nev., where many homeless people lived, was photographed on March 4, 2020.
A tent city in Reno, Nev., where many homeless people lived, was photographed on March 4, 2020.

A new report finds that pandemic-related job loss will cause twice as much chronic homelessness than the 2008 Great Recession, with Latinos and African Americans especially vulnerable.

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The report was published by the California-based Economic Roundtable, a nonprofit research group. Daniel Flaming heads the organization. He says the unemployed are obviously at risk, but so are some of the people who do have jobs.   

“The workers whose ability to pay rent is most precarious are workers in low wage jobs like restaurants and retail stores,” Flaming said.

Flaming says both industries have been severely affected by the pandemic and many of their employees are Latino and African American. These two groups are at greater risk of homelessness for several other reasons as well, Flaming said, including “institutional biases, discrimination, inequality in the education system, uneven enforcement of laws and discrimination in housing.”

According to Flaming, these dynamics will greatly affect people living in big cities where rent is high, but it will also have an impact on rural communities where resources typically run scarce. 

“In rural areas, it'll be more invisible, and people will probably be more isolated,” he said.

Flaming says he believes transitioning to a green economy can open up opportunities to many who may face the risk of homelessness. 

“The risks that lead from unemployment to homelessness are not stand-alone threats,” the report states. “They include all of the social and economic ingredients of a worker's life layered on top of each other, some as safeguards and others as vulnerabilities. Poverty employment, unemployment, ethnicity, isolation, personal crises, destitution, and homelessness are mutually reinforcing.”

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 KUNR Public Radio. To see more, visit KUNR Public Radio.