Homeless families – from the American dream to food stamps

"Homeless mom"

A recent CNN Money article illustrates a disturbing issue we see every day at Coalition for the Homeless – the changing face of homelessness.

Since the economic downturn, America has seen an alarming increase of working and middle-class families falling into poverty.

The article focuses on a Morris County, NJ family. The Smith’s (not their real name) story demonstrates just how easily homelessness can occur. When Mr. Smith lost his six-figure job of 20 years, the family of five attempted to survive on $15,000 per year. That was the income of the only job he could find.

The Smith’s money quickly drained, and among problems such as a looming eviction, the family was forced to apply for food stamps. Although Morris County is known for its wealth, the area has reportedly seen a 240% increase in the food stamp caseload since 2007!

The Smiths rely on the food stamps they receive, as do 46 million other hard-working Americans. However, because Mr. Smith has a new job earning $15 per hour, the family is now over the threshold for aid and faces losing this lifeline. United Way says it takes at least $60,000 per year for a family of four just to get by in that area of NJ, but ironically, the threshold to receive aid is below the family’s $18,000 annual income.

In addition to this hard reality, we understand the food stamp program is facing potential cuts. In an attempt to raise awareness, just last month, acclaimed chef Mario Batali partnered with the New York City Food Bank and challenged Americans to eat only what they would be able to buy with food stamps for one week.

Even for someone with culinary training, Batali’s Food Stamp Challenge was nearly impossible to do. And that was before the proposed cuts.

Hunger and homelessness among families are on the rise in our area too, as we know by the families who arrive at our doors daily. They, like the Smiths, never thought this would happen to them.