The Capitol Journal reported yesterday on a recent survey on homelessness in South Dakota. On the surface, the numbers are encouraging: while there are 1,166 homeless individuals, including 336 children, in the state, that’s down 26 percent from 2011. However, some deeper digging reveals some troubling trends:
The majority surveyed reported being homeless for the first time, with main reasons being they couldn’t afford rent, had lost a job or had substance abuse issues… The survey also suggested most homeless people in the state are holding jobs but not earning enough to keep a roof over their heads.
However, [Lisa] Bondy [statewide coordinator of the South Dakota Housing for Homeless Consortium] said the survey numbers are soft, as they only represent willing people who could be surveyed that day. The rural areas are especially problematic as there are few shelters and homelessness is less visible.
The most surprising statistic to Bondy is that 94 percent listed employment as their source of income, meaning most are working either full-time, part-time or day labor jobs, but not earning enough to afford a home.
Cory Heidelberger at the Madville Times recently wrote that South Dakota’s cost of living is now 99.5 percent the national average. Meanwhile, per capita personal income was 43rd in the nation in 20120 ($33,865 to be exact), lower than in any neighboring state. As most of the middle-income jobs lost in the Great Recession are increasingly replaced by low-wage jobs, these new numbers on homelessness – showing that even though South Dakotans are working, hundreds are still not making enough to put a roof over their heads – are unfortunately unsurprising, and give the lie to SD’s much-touted 4.5 percent unemployment.