Atlanta residents Raneice and Melvin White have struggled to find a permanent home for several years. The couple and their five children between the ages of 5 months and 13 years old reside in an extended-stay hotel. They pay $1,200 monthly and make do with a small stove, a microwave, a full-size refrigerator, and a sink.
“I haven’t been down all my life,” Raneice said to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I know what it’s like to live and do what you want to do.”
The White family is not alone.
Rising rental fees coupled with strict apartment approval criterium have left many working-class families in cities such as Atlanta to depend on motels and extended-stay hotels for long periods of time.
“Families are getting stuck there,” Protip Biswas, vice president for homelessness at United Way of Greater Atlanta told the AJC. “The activities that happen — the drugs, the other nefarious activities — it’s not a safe place for children, “These parents are trying to make it. It’s really a heartbreaking story.”
Experts from Georgia State University predict that at least 25,000 people are living in hotel rooms throughout the Atlanta metro area. According to United Way of Metro Atlanta, they receive between 3,000 and 4,000 calls annually from families looking for help in locating adequate housing.
In many instances, adults can pay $1,200 to $1,400 monthly to remain at an extended stay. However, they do not qualify for an apartment lease because of previous evictions, poor credit or lack of income. This leaves families in a position to live in cramped living conditions in hotel rooms.
“For a lot of people, it’s that or homelessness,” Lindsey Siegel, Legal Aid’s director of housing advocacy, said to the AjC.
With homeless shelters often full and rental costs rising, hotel stays are often the only option for these families
A Larger City Presents Larger Problems
Although relying on extended stays and other hotels is an option in the Atlanta metro area, it is not in New York City. Instead, families are relying on stays at homeless shelters and awaiting rental vouchers that will provide them with permanent residence at an affordable rate.
In New York City, an estimated 104,000 children were homeless over the 2021-2022 school year, an analysis by Advocates for Children of New York indicates. Many live in transitional housing — city-run hotels and homeless shelters — throughout the city as housing available for low to middle-income residents hit a 30-year low in 2021. At the same time, rental costs have ballooned.
While Atlanta’s homeless numbers are significantly lower than those of a far larger city such as New York, these numbers reveal families’ struggles to find affordable residences.