An Investment in Housing is an Investment in Education

When a sixth-grader is asking her teacher about job opportunities (via StarTribune April 29 commentary), and adds “If I worked, then maybe my family wouldn’t lose our home,” we need to get past a debate on the ROI of bonding bills. Fear and instability are sabotaging the futures of precariously-housed young people like this sixth-grader, not to mention the 11,000 homeless, public school students (identified in 2012-12) across the state who are losing-out on education and life.

An investment in affordable housing is an investment in education. And education is an investment in the future of our people and our community. The proposed $50 million boost in programs to prevent homelessness and create more housing options, plus $50 million in bonding for affordable housing, must be perceived as “beyond bricks & mortar”. This is an investment in Home.

What is the ROI of Home? That’s like asking, “What’s the ROI of Mom?” How do you measure that?

What we can, and do, measure is what happens when families don’t have Home – we see this in the costs of homelessness to our state. The inability to find affordable housing kills a family’s ability to provide one of the most basic of human needs – home. It’s right up there, right after air, water and food. And home is probably side-by-side with love on that human-need scale.

From the sixth grader’s question, we can surmise that his family is not simply lazy. The fact that the 12-year-old wants to look for a job indicates he’s familiar with the value of work. And, one of two things: 1) the family is working and not making enough to cover keeping their home or 2) the family has worked, but for some reason isn’t working now. Whichever the reason, affordability is key and support is needed to make home happen in their time of financial crisis.

“You can’t imagine how cold it is, sleeping outside in the winter – and how really, really hungry you get when living on the streets.” A formerly homeless teen

For some teenagers who are homeless, home was never a safe place to be. Having youth-specific housing, with supportive services, is the best alternative to making sure they can get their education. And it’s not a matter of just getting the diploma, it’s being afforded the mental capacity it takes to learn, and interact with learning and helpful mentors. A teenager has enough to worry about with the demands of learning. Worrying about where his next meal will come from, or where she will sleep tonight, shouldn’t be among them.

“You can’t imagine how cold it is, sleeping outside in the winter – and how really, really hungry you get when living on the streets.” A formerly homeless teen, who moved into one of Aeon’s apartments designated specifically for homeless youth, shared this with us when expressing his appreciation for finding a safe place to live. Education? Only after he found a stable home at one of Aeon’s youth properties, coupled with the social support of YouthLink staff, did he attend high school and earn his diploma.

Some things in life are self-evident. Everyone deserves home. Our children and youth shouldn’t have to worry about that.

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