Our families deserve decent, safe, and affordable housing

An assortment of buildings with the word "Housing" above

[This guest opinion is by Kimberly Chinn, a social worker in a Cobb County school]

In the Cobb County School District, the Homeless Education Program (HEP) supports families that have become unhoused.

Almost daily, I receive alerts that a family is homeless and needs support. The HEP office has reported an inundation of families that have become homeless, with the office being overwhelmed with assistance requests. The percentage of homeless families has risen to unprecedented levels in the district. As a school social worker at a Title I school, my families sometimes struggle to meet their basic needs.

They usually end up having “more month than money.” Unfortunately, the financial resources have dried up, leaving families scrambling to locate solutions.  Families that want to remain in the area have few options as they are being priced out of the county. Shelters are full and hotels have also become unavailable and unaffordable due to the demand. Unhoused students’ mental, physical, and emotional health is being impacted by the instability of their living situation.

An article by Aaleah McConnell, first published in the Georgia Recorder reported that the affordable housing supply is at “extreme” lows in Georgia due to the pandemic, leading to higher rents. The article further states that housing advocates have proposed solutions, such as repealing Georgia’s rent control ban. Even the apartments that have traditionally been considered low-income are raising rents but not the quality of the homes.

Our families deserve decent, safe, and affordable housing. It is more than just putting a roof over families’ heads; it is about improving long-term outcomes for the community. Housing Forward Virginia (2020) states that affordable housing reduces stress, leading to improvement in physical and mental health. Additionally, affordable housing frees up family budgets for healthcare and food. Families are surviving but not thriving.

Cobb County government must consider the needs of its residents by offering inclusive housing solutions and allowing for all individuals to have access to housing that supports their needs but also allows for a reduction in financial strain. I am also a resident of Cobb County and while community growth is ideal, it should not be at the expense of any of our families.  I hope that more stakeholders are included in housing conversations such as displaced families, youth, community activists, educators, and social workers. Strategy in collaboration with care and consideration is needed to tackle our housing affordability problem.