Many North Texans are struggling to pay rent amidst an era of historic inflation.
According to a recent survey from the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 522,000 Texas renters — about 8% of the state’s tenants — said they were behind on rent payments this summer. Of that 8%, three out of five said they feared they would be evicted within two months.
In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, about 19% of renters earning less than $50,000 per year said they were behind on rent.
The rental assistance and other programs during the government-mandated COVID lockdowns have expired, and according to some, contributed to the current environment of rising rent costs, energy costs, and overall inflation.
The worsening economic conditions are pushing some tenants out of their residences, exacerbating the already-growing problem of homelessness and vagrancy in Dallas.
One of the local citizens thrust into homelessness by worsening economic turmoil is Jade Barron, a single mother whom the Texas Tribune recently interviewed.
Barron, 30, said she and her four children lived in a one-bedroom apartment in North Dallas for three years, paying $850 in monthly rent — what she could afford as a massage therapist.
Inflation made baby formula, diapers, and wipes more difficult for Barron to afford, so she sold her car to get by.
Even still, she fell behind on her rent.
Unable to afford an over-60% rent increase, Barron and her children found themselves at Family Gateway shelter in May.
With more people ending up on the street, homeless shelters have seen increased demand in recent months.
From January to August, Family Gateway, which operates three emergency shelters capable of temporarily housing up to 100 families, received 3,351 calls from families who needed and qualified for assistance — almost twice the amount they received in the same period last year.
According to Family Gateway, the number of families calling in who were on the verge of being evicted had quadrupled since the previous year. The organization routinely has to put up 30 to 40 families in hotel rooms because it lacks the necessary space in its emergency shelters.
Jay Dunn, managing director of The Salvation Army of North Texas, said their shelter cannot house everyone seeking help there either. About 40 families are staying at the shelter, with another 25 families in overflow hotel rooms.
“Once they fall into it, it’s taking a lot longer because they have to get a much more competitive wage,” Dunn said. “They’ve got to deal with higher costs in a variety of areas in the market in order to sustain themselves.”
He said families staying at Salvation Army shelters still need more help with food, rent, and utility bills even after finding a new home.
“For folks doing well, [increased costs caused by inflation] are an annoyance,” said Family Gateway CEO Ellen Magnis. “But for folks who are earning barely enough to survive, an extra $100 a month in rent or an extra $50 a month for gas or any little increase just throws a whole new set of folks off-kilter.”