The foreclosure crisis has left thousands of abandoned and boarded up houses across Northeast Ohio. But, have you ever wondered what happens to the people who used to live in those homes? Have they moved away? Are they living in homeless shelters? Some local housing analysts suspect that a good number of these people have moved in with family and friends, which could affect this year's census count. ideastream®'s David C. Barnett has more on the phenomenon known as "doubling up".
ERIC WELLMAN: David, do we have any idea how many people are living in a doubled-up situation?
DCB: The most recent estimate for Cuyahoga County is 12,000 children and 15,000 adults --- and that dates back to 2006.
EW: How do they come up with those numbers?
DCB: Some researchers from the National Alliance to End Homelessness pulled those stats out of census data. As you know, the U.S. Census Bureau does a national headcount every ten years, but they still do some surveys in the years in between, but these are estimates…samples… not a complete count. So, the last time they did a sample was 2006 --- before the mortgage meltdown…before a lot more people started losing their homes. The numbers they get from this year's count could be very different.
EW: But, I understand that may not be an easy thing to do.
DCB: Yes. Census officials and city planners have told me they're concerned that people may not own up to the fact that they're "doubled up". Bob Brown, who heads the Cleveland Planning Commission, puts it this way:
ROBERT BROWN: There are a lot of households that are in temporary situations where they are doubling up with other family members. They and their host may not understand that they need to be counted at that location, and they may be easily missed because the Census worker doesn't necessarily know that there's another household here because it seems like a single house --- that's going to be a real challenge, this time.
EW: I know in past years the Census Bureau has had problems counting the homeless population, but in this case, these are "homeless" people who are… living in homes --- other people's homes.
DCB: Yeah, and the irony is that, in some cases, a person who lives out on the streets and sleeps in a homeless shelter at night has some advantages over the "doubled-up" person.
EW: How so?
DCB: Cyleste Collins, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University did a study on this. She says if you're in a shelter, there are a lot of services and resources at your disposal.
CYLESTE COLLINS: You'll have regular meals, they'll probably make sure that you get to school, they might have job-training, they might have parent classes --- things like that. But, if you're living on someone's couch or sleeping on the floor of your friend or some relative, you might be totally invisible to the system.
DCB: For instance, the system doesn't know about Bryan, a guy who's living in a doubled-up situation on the west side of Cleveland --- lost his job...got divorced....he and his ex-wife had to sell their house for a lot less than it was originally worth. He's still trying to adjust to this new reality of living in someone else's living room. He told me he's really starting to missing his medical insurance.
BRYAN: Everything costs so much money. I need to go to the dentist, actually. That's a big one.
DCB: He's heard that there are probably free or low-cost medical services that he's eligible for. But, that idea rubs him the wrong way…says it's a little embarrassing.
BRYAN: I don't… (sighs)…I don't like things for free. I don't know. If it comes down to it, I guess I will.
EW: What's it like for him to live doubled-up with someone else? Does that get awkward or embarrassing for him?
DCB: He's not comfortable with the situation.
BRYAN: It's kind of hard living here --- trust me.
DCB: You see, he's living with… his ex-wife, Jennifer. It may not be the typical doubled-up situation, but it's still awkward. But, Jennifer says there have been some benefits.
JENNIFER: It's…we get along so much better. We're friends now. I think we lost that in our marriage, and…I think we're friends --- we're good friends.
BRYAN: I stay in the front room, she's upstairs. We don't ever…I just…try not to think about it. As soon as I can get out, I will. But, I do owe her, I owe her a lot for helping me, because I don't even know where I would have went.
JENNIFER: Until he gets a job and gets on his feet. I am not going to kick anybody out who doesn't have a job.
DCB: Bryan's moving day may be coming soon --- he had a job interview, last week.
BRYAN: I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I'm not counting my chickens before they're hatched.
DCB: If things go smoothly, they'll only have one more major hurdle --- the kids.
EW: They have children?
DCB: Well, they're really a couple of dogs, named Dozer and Giggles. Jennifer doesn't want to think about who gets custody.
JENNIFER: We don't talk about that. (laughs weakly) It probably all depends on where he goes. I'm sure, starting out, he's going to have to get an apartment. And then, go from there.
BRYAN: I don't honestly know --- when I leave --- what we're going to do.