Speech given by a member of Just Housing at the 2019 International Workers’ Day event in Olympia.
Good evening everyone, happy International Workers Day! I’m Uncle Jamie from Just housing, I’m a homeless advocate and a homeless person.
And I can tell you from experience that it can be difficult to find work when you’re homeless. Employers are, well lets say their hesitant. They have a lot of questions. Legitimate questions.
“Is this person suffering from substances abuse or mental health problems? Can this person maintain their appearance and hygiene properly? How reliable is this person? What if they get swept or arrested and I have to find someone to cover their shift?”
These are all legitimate questions but they also make for very high barriers for employment when your unhoused.
But the thing is though a lot of us do work. Studies have shown that between 22 and 25%, depending on the study, of unhoused people, are technically employed full time.
between 40 and 60% are intermittently employed, seasonal work, day
labor, gig jobs.
So whatever the exact numbers are – that is a significant portion of our population that is gainfully employed and working. But here’s the thing according to another study statistically in this country – in order to afford a modest two bedroom apartment, one needs to be working at, get this, 21.21 an hour.
And so places that are only one bedroom or studios, competition for them is fierce. And a lot of us unhoused people we have spotty rental histories. So for a lot of us, even if we are bringing in a weekly income rent is simply out of reach for us.
So think about that for second. Maybe the person that checks your groceries out, or blended your latte, went home that night to a shelter, or a car, or a tent.
So while we are here today in solidarity celebrating working people around the world please lets not forget those working people whose gainful employment cannot cover the rent.
If you would like to learn more about just housing we are available at justhousingolympia.org and we are also on Facebook.