New Faces Join Homeless Ranks

Time is running out for Tracy Mosely.

A single mother of five, Mosely is on the brink of homelessness after the house she's rented for a year fell into foreclosure and was sold at auction. Mosely, a part-time restaurant hostess, came up with $500 for a security deposit on another place. But she says all the landlords she's contacted want $1,000 or more.

She doesn't have it.

Lying on her bed in Florissant, Mo., flipping through the newspaper, seeking a place to move her family, Mosely says she's not sure if she has weeks or days before she'll be evicted. She may wind up, she says, in a homeless shelter.

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"My blood pressure is sky-high," she says. "We'll be on the streets. I'm just lost about what to do. We were settled here, this was home, and the kids are looking at me like, 'Mom, please.' I told them I'm doing my best."

Mosely is one of the faces of a national real estate crisis whose most grievous victims are increasingly facing the ultimate fate: homelessness. With more families on the cusp of having nowhere to live, thousands of both former homeowners and renters are winding up in shelters or turning to charities for food or other aid to get by.

Nearly 61% of local and state homeless coalitions say they've seen a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, according to a study released in April by the National Coalition for the Homeless.

According to the study, which let respondents offer multiple replies when asked where they're headed once their property is foreclosed on, 76% of displaced homeowners and renters are moving in with relatives and friends. About 54% are moving to emergency shelters. About 40% are already on the streets.

Those facing homelessness include the working poor, who were among those hardest hit by the collapse in subprime mortgages. But others are middle-class families who scarcely expected to find themselves unable to afford their homes.

"Shelters are full, and it's getting worse," says Michael Stoops of the National Coalition for the Homeless in Washington. "There are more homeless homeowners, people who first try to downsize, then wind up living with family and friends or in vehicles. At the shelters, there's almost no room at the inn. It's first come, first serve."

Six cities reported a rise in the number of homeless people who used emergency shelter and transitional housing programs in the past year, and 10 cities reported an increase in households with children seeking help, according to a 2007 survey done in part by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The report cites several reasons for the increase, with the rise in foreclosures at the top of the list. Many cities that have seen an increase in homelessness — among them Detroit, Portland, Ore., and Salt Lake City — have also suffered sharp jumps in foreclosures.

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The Salvation Army, which provides transitional emergency and shelter housing, is reporting a surge in demand for homeless services. For the first time in memory, it's seeing the trend in such middle-class enclaves as Olathe, Kan., and Englewood, Colo. In Kansas City, the Salvation Army has opened shelters in middle-class communities that are serving more families and middle-income wage earners. In Anchorage, a shelter has expanded from six rooms to 16.

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