Of all the things that define us, so little credit is given to the influence of our homes. The consistency of four walls, the stability of a roof over our heads, the security of a place to call our own. In the words of Former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, “There is nothing more important than a good, safe, secure home.”

Dr. Abraham Maslow created what psychologists call Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Maslow theorized that in order for us to maximize our potential, our needs must be met.

Based on Maslow’s hierarchy, having a home is one of our most basic and essential needs. If this is true, why do statistics show that in Florida alone over ten thousand individuals were counted as unsheltered on a single night in January 2022? Why is homelessness such an issue for our nation? Most importantly, what can we do about it?

Before we talk about what we can do, let’s talk about what homelessness is.

Simply defined, homelessness is a lack of fixed, regular, and acceptable nighttime residence and living in temporary accommodations (ie an emergency shelter) or places unsuitable for human habitation.

Homelessness is divided into four categories:
Literally Homeless
Imminent Risk of Homelessness
Homeless Under Other Federal Statutes
Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence

Data from the 2022 Florida Point In Time (PIT) Count reported 11,611 unsheltered homeless individuals (literally homeless) and 14,199 sheltered homeless individuals (living in shelters, transitional housing, or temporary housing).

For years our nation has debated the issues of housing and homelessness; the main arguments are usually focused on how to handle the issue. While figuring out how to handle the issue is important, identifying what is causing the issue may be even more so.

So what is the root cause of homelessness? Addiction? Irresponsible spending? A shortage of homes? Research and statistics show that homelessness is an affordable housing issue. Talbot House Ministries’ new Housing Manager, Maria Maldonado, says,

“Some assume that those who struggle to find housing and remain housed are irresponsible. That they don’t want to work or that they must have some other ‘problems’ that prevent them from maintaining or finding new housing. Most families are one tragedy or one major expense away from not being able to pay for their housing.”

In the U.S., Florida is among the states with the least amount of available affordable housing. In addition to a lack of affordable housing, Florida is ranked number one in the nation for its share of cost-burdened renters.

It is recommended that housing not exceed 30% of one’s income. Cost-burdened renters are individuals who spend more than the recommended 30% of their income on rent. 53.2% of Florida renters classify as cost-burdened. That is 2.7% more than California residents and 5.2% more than Colorado residents.

So when we add up the lack of affordable housing, the cost burden of renting, and the recent effects of inflation, it is clear why Talbot Houses’ emergency shelter has been operating at maximum capacity since December 2022. Many are facing financial pressure that they cannot withstand.

So what can be done?

In December 2022, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released the All In: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. The plan sets an ambitious and advantageous goal to see a 25% reduction in homelessness by 2025.

The plan is built around six pillars:

Three Foundations

  1. Equity
  2. Evidence
  3. Collaboration

Three Solutions

  1. Housing and Supports
  2. Homelessness Response
  3. Prevention

Talbot House plays a vital role in many aspects of USICH’s plan, reducing homelessness locally through “person-centered, trauma-informed, and evidence-based solutions” like affordable housing.

The ministry currently has three affordable housing properties, totaling 46 units; Troxel, Fellowship, and Vermont Place. Talbot House recently partnered with Plateau Village (Lakeland’s newest affordable residential community), which committed 50% of its units (36 in total) for priority rental to working homeless individuals, working homeless families, and special needs households.

Everyone deserves a place to call home and Talbot House is continually working to provide men, women, and families with this basic need.

If you would like to learn more about the programs and services at Talbot House Ministries, we invite you to schedule a campus tour. Come and see firsthand what is being done in and through Talbot House.