‘Homelessness is something that only happens to other people. It couldn’t possibly happen to me.’
Most of us can’t imagine being homeless. But the reality is that it is a common occurrence, taking place all around us, to people we may work with or cross paths with every day.
In one recent case, the single-parent bookseller was forced to move out of their apartment when the building was sold. They had been renting the apartment for years and in the ensuing time, rents had shot up in the surrounding area. Their rent almost doubled in the new apartment. While the bookseller would be able to cover the rent going forward, the expenses of moving and deposits put their ability to keep this new home in jeopardy. With the payment of a month’s rent and utilities, Binc was able to help stabilize the family’s finances and get them on a steady course to enjoying their new home.
Of the applications coming in to Binc, Homelessness Prevention is the primary or secondary qualifying event in at least half of the requests. These requests come from booksellers who were comfortably and securely housed until an unexpected emergency put them in peril. These booksellers may not have been rich, but they were able to make ends meet, until “the event” happened. “The event” takes many shapes; a medical emergency, natural disaster, temporary loss of household income, divorce or death in the family. The only thing these events have in common is that they are unexpected and they cause an enormous financial burden to the bookseller.
The requests for homeless prevention grants to Binc isn’t unexpected, the numbers of homeless families continues to rise across the country. As the housing market gets tighter and more expensive more renters living in affordable housing become vulnerable. This is especially prevalent in areas like Northern California and Houston, where natural disasters have decreased the number of homes available. A reduction in the number of rentable units and an increase in monthly rents create the perfect storm, squeezing booksellers from their homes. When this happens, finding another rental unit is not always easy and when found can eat up the majority of each paycheck.
For an insightful look at homelessness issues in America I recommend reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond. After reading the stories in his book, you will see homelessness in a whole new light.
In addition to the stress and worry about losing their homes, this population faces many other related challenges. Try to imagine recovering from an illness, managing a chronic disease, or putting your life back together after a divorce with no secure home to go to at the end of each day.
Desmond points out the symbiotic relationship between job loss and eviction. Losing one’s job certainly can lead to eviction, but the opposite is also true. Eviction can lead to job loss, as the individual misses work (for lack of regular routine or searching for a new home) and the stress causes distraction at work.
“A good home can serve as sturdiest of footholds. When people have a place to live, they become better parents, workers, and citizens.” writes Desmond.
For booksellers experiencing or facing homelessness, the Binc Foundation can be a life line. Since we see booksellers experiencing one-time unexpected events causing their short-term crisis, many of our applicants don’t qualify for government assistance. Even if they did, government assistance comes slowly, with piles of paperwork and long delays. This system is not effective for preventing homelessness. By the time the bureaucratic maze has been navigated the applicant has already been evicted. The booksellers who apply to Binc need quick action with a one-time hand up to get them back on their feet. Because Binc is small and nimble, we can turn a grant request into a check in the mail in as few as 24 hours, quickly enough to prevent evictions. If we are successful in this endeavor, then Binc’s one-time grant can prevent long term hardships for the family.
Our goal at Binc is to prevent a bookseller from becoming homeless, or getting them into a new residence as quickly as possible if they have lost their home. Last year with the help of our generous donors we were able to help xx booksellers avoid becoming a statistic. Once they have a secure and stable home they are free to heal, to thrive, and to continue the job they love . . . selling books.
If you are a bookseller experiencing financial difficulties, please reach out to Binc by phone 866-733-9064 or email mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the Resource Page on our website for additional sources of help.