Newly homeless families nationwide resort to crowded motel living

Erik Eckholm of the New York Times reports on the growing number of formerly middle-class families who have lost their housing and now resort to living in cramped motel rooms. Eckholm calls them the “hidden homeless,” because they aren’t counted in federal homeless data, and many receive little or no public aid.

Motel families exist by the hundreds in Denver, along freeway-bypassed Route 1 on the Eastern Seaboard, and in other cities from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Portland, Ore. But they are especially prevalent in Orange County, which has high rents, a shortage of public housing and a surplus of older motels that once housed Disneyland visitors.

“The motels have become the de facto low-income housing of Orange County,” said Wally Gonzales, director of Project Dignity, one of dozens of small charities and church groups that have emerged to assist families ….

Families of three, six or more are squeezed into a room, one child doing homework on a bed, jostled by another watching television. Children rotate at bedtime, taking their turns on the floor. Some families, like the Malpicas, in a motel in Anaheim, commandeer a closet for baby cribs.

A number of Street Roots vendors currently live out of motel rooms — one shares a double room with three other men, two of whom sleep on the floor. As Street Roots reported in February, social service providers in Portland say they have been seeing more and more people who are new to homelessness and living in motels or doubled-up apartments. Those people are not picked up by the city’s homeless count, and many of them hesitate to seek out services because they worry that their children will be taken away.

Posted by Mara Grunbaum

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