Forty years ago, a poor single person had a choice – earn or find (beg?) enough money to pay rent in a cheap single-room-occupancy (SRO) or sleep in a shelter. Today, these people don’t have that choice – it’s the streets for them.

Beginning in the 1960s, cities across America tore down buildings in blighted areas. I’m not talking about total neighborhoods (like the West End), but lots of individual buildings – you know, “flop houses“.

The buildings were decrepit, unsafe, unsanitary. City, state and federal governments intended to replace these places with new residences and/or supplement people’s incomes enough that they could afford to pay higher rents.

That did not come to pass, which is one reason why you see homeless on the streets today.

(About half the people you see on the streets are mentally-ill (that might seem kind of obvious).) This is a result of de-institutionalizing the mentally-ill in the 1980s & 1990s.

Certainly, it’s a complex problem. Solving it, seems impossible.

As people with full-time jobs turn to emergency shelters for a place to stay because of the lack of low-income housing, the number of legitimate rooming houses in the Boston area has dwindled to a 30-year low.

The 22,000 rooming-house units available for rent in the Hub in the ’70s has dwindled to fewer than 2,000, housing advocates said.

“A lot of these people could take advantage and not be living in an emergency shelter system, which is very expensive, if they could find a room where they could pay a modest amount of rent,� said Karen LaFrazia, executive director of the St. Francis House, a day shelter in downtown Boston.

Complete article: Cheap digs: Big demand, low supply – by Laura Crimaldi, The Boston Herald

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Updated: January 2018

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