As Spring gets into full gear, we start to see the beauty that the North Shore boasts. Flowers blooming, parks filled with energetic children, picturesque beaches where movies are filmed. Outdoor seating at local shops start to be filled, the quiet hum of a distant lawnmower is heard and the tightness of well-manicured mulch beds filled with perennials are on full display. Yes, the North Shore community is alive and well. Spring often brings hope. But for some, Spring also brings anxiety and fear. Especially for those members of our community who are unsure where they’ll lay their head tomorrow.
As exciting as this time of year is, with graduations around the corner, wedding dates commencing and the future of summers spent at the beach in our minds, life on the North Shore remains out of reach for many. Yes, minimum wage is at an all-time high of $11/hr. Unemployment seems to be at an all-time low in MA, hovering at 3.5%. So what’s the problem? Housing costs, specifically rental units, are crushing budgets all over the North Shore.
Let me give you an example. You live in Beverly, Salem, Danvers or Lynn. You’re working 55 hrs a week at Dunkin Donuts and your hourly wage is $12.50. You’re a single parent whose 4 yr old son is at daycare from 730am-6pm, Monday-Friday so you can work your necessary hours. You need to find a babysitter on Sunday because that’s the day you can earn time and a half at work and close out the week making as much money as you can. Ballpark, you bring home about $2,800 per month. Knock out daycare and babysitting costs that see you pay out $450/week, that leaves you with around $1000 each month for rent. We haven’t begun to talk about clothes, co-pays, food, your car payment or mode of transportation or the toy you’d like to bring to your son’s first birthday party he’s been invited to. You look for a very modest 1 bedroom for you and your son. They range from $1,000-$1,900 per month. What do you do? You grew on the North Shore. You went to school on the North Shore. You wanted to raise a family on the North Shore. Do you relocate to another community? Another State? Ask yet another family member for a week on their couch until you wear out your welcome there?
As much as we at Family Promise love our program and the families we serve, living in shelter is not a long term solution. We need to start having the hard conversations about truly affordable housing for everyone. There are many good and necessary conversations going on in and around the North Shore about building and securing new opportunities for affordable housing. But, what about now? What do we do today, tomorrow, the next day about families that need help NOW? Yes, offering shelter, meals, case management, friendly faces and caring souls is a piece of the solution. But, if we’re going to solve this rising issue of homelessness, we’re going to have to get creative. We’re going to have to look at that garage as a potential new in-law apartment. We’re going to have to take a serious look at open land we have in various communities as a potential spot for new affordable units. We’re going to have look at the 40B law and determine if it needs to be revamped for today’s crisis.
This issue of homelessness is solvable, despite being multi-faceted. But, it’s going to take each and every single one of us to make a difference where we live. Families don’t want to be homeless. They want a place to call home, just like we all do. How will you help today to make sure that the beauty of the North Shore is available to each and every member of our community?