Q. Why are people who live in motels considered to be homeless? They have a roof over their heads, don’t they?
A. People living in motels meet the Federal definition of homelessness, which states that anyone living in “inadequate nighttime housing” is considered to be homeless. Families, often with 4 or more members, must all conduct their daily lives in one room, (no bigger than the average master bedroom) with a dismaying lack or privacy, dignity or safety. The motels are anything but adequate for housing needs.
Q. Why should I want to help someone who is probably sitting around enjoying welfare?
A. Contrary to popular belief, the majority of individuals and families living in motels are quite simply the working poor. They are not accepting aid and do have jobs–minimum wage jobs which do not generate the income necessary to pay current Southern California apartment rents.
Q. Why don’t they move somewhere less expensive?
A. First of all, it is nearly impossible for anyone making minimum wage to find affordable housing anywhere in the country. More importantly, Orange County’s economy is driven by minimum wage jobs, thousands of them. These workers hold jobs at retail stores, convenience stores, gas stations, offices, warehouses, amusement parks, sports stadiums, hotels, big box stores, strip shopping centers, malls, etc., Our economy would collapse without these workers. We need them in this county.
Q. How to people end up in the motels?
A. As the gap between housing costs and living wages grows further apart, more & more people are finding themselves unable either to maintain or even find affordable housing. According to the Orange County Register in January 2013 a median priced 2 bedroom, 1 bath apartment now rents for over $1,600 a month. Considering the average minimum wage monthly check generates around $1,400 before deductions it becomes readily apparent that apartment rents are out of reach.
Q. Why don’t motel residents save their money to apply to the first month’s rent for an apartment?
While monthly motel rents are less expensive than current apartment rents, they are still not cheap. The average cost for a family of 4 is around $1,100. After paying rent, there is very little left over, if anything for life’s other necessities—food, hygiene items, medical care, etc. The families must “do their time” earning job promotions and raises to increase their incomes to a viable level. This is not a speedy process and can be unattainable for those who are technically employed, but actually “under-employed” (workers held to part time hours to avoid having to pay benefits).
Q. Why don’t people go to shelters instead? They’re free, aren’t they?
A. On any given night in Orange County, there are around 35,000 homeless individuals. The county has less than 3,500 shelter beds. Without the motels, the homeless would have nowhere at all to go.
Q. How does someone become homeless?
A. The slippery slope to homelessness gets steeper for all of us every day. Contrary to popular belief not everyone becomes homeless by bad or immoral decisions. Job shutdowns, layoffs, “right sizing”, medical and natural disasters are all significant contributing factors. All it takes is a major earthquake, a company the size of Enron shutting down or a hurricane the size of Sandy or Katrina to alter people’s lives in the blink of an eye.
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