It's estimated that 7 million more homes are going into foreclosure, which is dramatically changing the the face of those who are without a place to live.
It's not who you usually expect. More and more of the homeless are families and individuals with degrees and previously stable jobs: schoolteachers, engineers, computer technicians and designers. The Washington Post profile of Ron and Yolanda Vazquez, a middle-class couple from Virginia with three children, is just one example of how the recession has forced an ordinary family into homelessness.
Ron Vazquez made $85,000 a year as an engineer for a defense industry firm. But after he lost his job, he, his wife and their three children moved from a three-bedroom townhouse into a local shelter. It isn't simply about adjusting to a material loss -- there is a loss of identity as well. The family tries to maintain a sense of normalcy by planning outings that are free or low in cost, such as trips to the museum.
There have always been middle-class families who have struggled, but in the past, their safety nets -- broader and stronger than those of families with long experience living on the edge -- could keep them from hitting bottom. After all, a shelter is no one's first refuge. They exhaust every other option: savings accounts, the generosity of relatives, retirement funds. Middle-class families might take longer to need a shelter, officials say, but when they do end up there, they are little better off than the other residents.
The shelter is everything he had tried to avoid in life. He grew up poor, eating meals bought with food stamps, and he had promised himself he'd do better for his family. "It was hard for me to accept that I went full circle," he said.
Homelessness can happen to anyone. If you or anyone you know has suffered through losing a home and has had to move into a shelter or temporary housing, tell us your story at firstname.lastname@example.org.