Last week, Unity of Greater New Orleans honored the Advocacy Center for “Exemplary Advocacy on Behalf of Homeless People with Disabilities.” What a great honor!
On the same day, Unity released the 2010 Homelessness Update (http://unitygno.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/3.23.11-Homeless-Update.pdf). It included some alarming statistics. Many people with disabilities survive on a monthly SSI check of $674. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in New Orleans is $850. Clearly, this doesn’t add up. It’s impossible for many people with disabilities to afford an apartment, much less food, transportation or other expenses.
I’ve heard quite a range of responses to these types of statistics and read the comments on internet–“People who are homeless should get a job and stop depending on the government for support!”
But, I know it’s not that easy. In 2009, the overall unemployment rate for people with a disability was 14.5 percent, significantly higher than the rate for those with no disability (9.0 percent). In addition, a large proportion of those with a disability--about 8 in 10-were not in the labor force at all, compared with 3 in 10 of those with no disability.
Employers often overtly or covertly discriminate against people with disabilities. They don’t know about accommodations, modifications or job supports. They assume people with disabilities can’t be successful employees. In my experience, the opposite is true.
It’s all related. There’s significant work to be done.
Written by Stephanie Patrick, Director of Outreach and Training