CW: Poverty & Homelessness
Charis Hill is one of the millions of Americans who live in poverty. They receive approximately $1,000 every month from Social Security Disability insurance. They occasionally earn money through writing, but they live in poverty.
Hill had worked after earning a bachelor’s degree first as a job coach and later as a mover. in 2013, Charis was diagnosed with a disease called Ankylosing spondylitis. Unable to continue working Charis applied for disability benefits three years later.
Ankylosing spondylitis, also known as axial spondyloarthritis, is a disease characterized by inflammation that can eventually lead to the fusion of some of the vertebrae in the spine. The spine becomes less flexible as a result of this fusing, which can result in a hunched posture. Breathing deeply may be challenging if the ribs are affected.
Applying for Social Security benefits is a difficult process. Eventually after two years Hill was approved. They survived off their savings, gifts, occasional writing jobs, and an inheritance from their father’s death.
Unfortunately, Hill was lucky. According to AARP the average disability applicant now waits more than two years for a final decision. Sadly, more than 10,000 individuals die each year without receiving an answer.
When they began receiving benefits in 2018, the payments were $970. Rent was $800.Hill knew rent would increase faster than their income.
Affordable housing is difficult to find nationwide. The National Low Income Housing Coalition discovered in 2018 that a person who works 40 hours per week and makes minimum wage cannot afford a normal two-bedroom apartment (i.e., not be cost-burdened) in any counties nationwide.
Hill intended to use the majority of their assets — approximately $65,000 — to put down on a house, but time was essential because Medicare and Medicaid have asset limits. They were at risk of losing healthcare because they had more than $2,000 in their bank account. Even if they paid for their own healthcare, they couldn’t afford to wait to see if they would be among those lucky enough to be accepted for public housing after years of waiting.
According to a CBPP examination of Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) data, only two of the 50 largest housing agencies have average wait durations of less than a year for families who have made it off the waiting list; the longest have wait times of up to eight years. Families in need of vouchers have waited on waitlists for over 2.5 years on average nationwide before receiving them.
The cheapest homes in Sacramento, California, where Hill’s specialized medical care and community is located, are between $150,000 and $200,000. They learnt to live frugally, with a monthly budget of less than $1,000. They thought they could afford a property between $160,000 and $170,000 after conducting significant research and budgeting.
Even with a great credit score, though, no lender would accept Hill. They requested their mother to co-sign a mortgage, but she refused. A co-signer was offered, however they were not pre-approved.
Finally, Hill connected with a low-income lender and was amazingly approved for a conventional 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for a home priced at or below $145,000. Hill was ecstatic that they qualified for a mortgage, but they knew no houses would be that cheap. Hill’s real estate agent, a friend who also has Ankylosing spondylitis agreed.
Surprisingly, a house in my price range did become available. My friend and I made an offer at 11:00 p.m. on a house I knew nothing about other than a few pictures and a brief description. I was suddenly buying a 1940 two-bedroom house within 24 hours!
The home was purchased as-is, and it required approximately $50,000 of work to catch up on maintenance and make the home accessible.
Buying a home was the result of Hill’s refusal to give up. Countless people told Hill that qualifying for a mortgage loan on disability income was impossible. What remained constant throughout the process was their refusal to give up in the face of structural obstacles. Hill says that buying a home was a near-impossible task from the very beginning, and that much of it was due to luck and timing.
disabled people account for 38.6% of sheltered homeless people in America, according to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty.
In January 2017, 24% of people experiencing homelessness, or about 87,000 people, had a disability and were chronically homeless. Individuals experiencing chronic homelessness have been homeless for at least a year or have had at least four periods of homelessness, totaling twelve months in the previous three years.
Hopefully, by recognizing how difficult it is to find accessible housing, we can all work together to reduce housing barriers for people with disabilities. Housing is an essential part of life, and nobody should struggle to find housing.
“Ankylosing Spondylitis.” Mayo Clinic, 21 Feb. 2023, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ankylosing-spondylitis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354808.
Acosta, Sonya, and Erik Gartland. “Families Wait Years for Housing Vouchers Due to Inadequate Funding.” Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, 22 July 2021, https://www.cbpp.org/research/housing/families-wait-years-for-housing-vouchers-due-to-inadequate-funding
Hill, Charis. “I’m a Disabled American Living in Poverty, and Buying My House Gives Me 2 Things: Stability and a Home.” Edited by Stephanie Hallett, Business Insider, 15 Nov. 2019, http://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/social-security-disability-insurance-bought-a-house-not-the-norm.
“Homelessness in America: Overview of Data and Causes.” The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, 2018, https://homelesslaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Homeless_Stats_Fact_Sheet.pdf.
Konish, Lorie. “As Social Security Disability Application Wait Times Hit Record High, Experts Say It’s a Sign the Agency Needs More Funding.” CNBC, CNBC, 16 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/amp/2022/09/16/long-social-security-service-waits-signal-need-for-more-funds.html.
Sisson, Patrick, et al. “The Affordable Housing Crisis, Explained.” Curbed, Curbed, 2 Mar. 2020, https://archive.curbed.com/2019/5/15/18617763/affordable-housing-policy-rent-real-estate-apartment.
Theil, Michele. “A Shortage of Accessible Housing Is Affecting Disabled People.” EachOther, EachOther, 23 Feb. 2022, https://eachother.org.uk/shortage-accessible-housing-disability-rights/.
Thomas , Erin Vinoski. “Homelessness among Individuals with Disabilities: Influential Factors and Scalable Solutions.” The National Association of County and City Health Officials, The National Association of County and City Health Officials, 14 June 2019, https://www.naccho.org/blog/articles/homelessness-among-individuals-with-disabilities-influential-factors-and-scalable-solutions.
Ward, Ashley. “The Right to Adequate Housing: Disabled Individuals in the United States: Immigration and Human Rights Law Review.” The Immigration & Human Rights Law Review, The University of Cincinnati, 21 Jan. 2022, https://lawblogs.uc.edu/ihrlr/2022/01/21/the-right-to-adequate-housing-disabled-individuals-in-the-united-states/#post-339-footnote-55.