The Feeling Of Safety, The Meaning Of Hope

Posted on January 26, 2010

A recent poll among homeowners  indicated that more than 30% experienced real fears of being homeless within the last year. All the while, rates of foreclosure and homelessness continue to rise.

Homelessness is a reality for many families, but at Virginia Supportive Housing, we can transform that reality into a dream of stability, safety, and hope.  What does that really mean to the people we serve? There are faces behind the statistics—living, breathing individuals whose lives are changed by having a safe place to call home. It is in their stories that you learn why we do what we do. This is one of our Stories of Hope.

“When our time at the shelter was up, I was terrified. Now that I was clean and had custody of my kids, I was responsible for their lives as well as my own. I was filled with fear. I couldn’t do anything that would jeopardize my freedom or sobriety, but even though I had a job, I couldn’t afford anyplace decent. Where were we going to sleep?

When I found out about VSH’s Family Apartments I was so relieved, finally, a safe affordable place where I could raise my kids. The apartment is also a place where I can grow and be a better person. Best of all, I’m not alone. My case manager is always available, supporting me and connecting me to community resources if I need them. For the first time in 15 years, I’m living life right.” – Barbara*, Family Apartment Resident

*”Barbara” is a pseudonym for a an actual VSH family client.

Rethinking the American Dream

Posted on December 1, 2009

For years I have been complaining about the emphasis in this country on homeownership to the detriment of rental housing.  Every neighborhood and community plan I have ever looked at has an increase in homeownership as the top goal and priority.  It’s hard to even find anything in these plans about rental housing, except to make sure it is maintained and doesn’t come tumbling down.

Last month, there was an article in the Washington Post by Charles Lane entitled “Doubling Down on the Wrong Housing Policy” that explores the dangers and consequences of our national obsession with homeownership—namely the current housing crisis. The article argues for a “fundamental change in strategy… a more level playing field between owning and renting.”

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with homeownership.  I’m a homeowner and I like it.  But not everyone can afford to own a home and some people shouldn’t.  When we as a nation put homeownership on a pedestal, renting becomes second class.  When was the last time you heard someone say they don’t want to be a homeowner?  As Mr. Lane says in his article, there is no shame in being a tenant.  People who rent should not be made to feel like second class citizens.  Renting is okay.  More than that, we should stop setting goals for homeownership.  Let’s come up with a housing policy that puts homeownership and renting on an equal footing.

Our goals could be very simple: everyone should have a place to live; everyone should pay what they can afford for where they live; everyone or no one should get a tax break for where they live; and everyone should take care of the place they live to the best of their ability.  I know.  I live in a dream world.  That’s never going to happen.  Well, for the meantime, let’s at least stop calling homeownership the American dream.  Look where that’s gotten us!

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