As we deliver Enterprise's 2013 annual report, millions of low-income families, every day and in every community, are living in crisis. Our cause has never been more urgent, and our work has never been more important.
In communities across the country, rents are rising, wages are stagnating and working families are finding it harder to afford a decent place to call home. As a result, a record number of families are barely scraping by, living just one unforeseen event away from disaster.
On any given night, there are more than 600,000 people living on the streets or in homeless shelters. Nearly a quarter of them are children. A much larger group – nearly 19 million families – pays more than half of their monthly income on housing, often leaving them one paycheck away from losing their homes. They are the near-homeless – the next-homeless – and many are left with impossible choices like paying rent or buying groceries.
Together, these families – the near-homeless – the next-homeless – are the face of America's growing housing insecurity crisis. And at Enterprise, they are the families we aim to help.
We know that where you live has a profound impact on the person you become. Without a safe, stable home, families living in poverty simply don't have the chance to strive and succeed. In that way, housing is much more than shelter – it's a platform, the essential first rung on the ladder of opportunity. But that rung is beyond the reach of too many families today.
Over the past three decades, we've learned what it takes to lift families out of housing insecurity and give them a fair shot at success. It takes homes that are affordable and available where the need is most acute. It takes homes that are healthy, well-designed and sustainable. And it takes homes that are connected to jobs, health care, good schools, transit and other opportunities.
Where you live has a profound impact on the person you become.
With the help and generosity of our partners, supporters and the entire Enterprise team, we took tremendous steps forward to put that philosophy – housing as a platform for opportunity – into action in 2013.
We worked deeply in 10 key markets to help tackle some of the toughest housing and economic problems facing communities. We established new funds to spur private investment in low-income neighborhoods. We expanded our efforts to connect low-income families to reliable public transit in eight cities. And we began a groundbreaking seven-year study on the connections between green, affordable housing and long-term health.
We also developed new strategies to help communities recover from and better prepare for natural disasters. In fact, our annual report shows how one resident who lost her home in Superstorm Sandy found refuge in temporary housing and how the resilience of an Enterprise partner helped minimize the storm's impact on families.
All told, we invested $2.5 billion in communities last year and financed more than 16,800 affordable homes. Since 1982, we've invested $16 billion in all 50 states, helped build or preserve nearly 320,000 homes and touched millions of lives.
Our 2013 annual report goes into more detail on those results and shares a few stories of individuals and families whose lives have improved because of Enterprise and the talented partners we work with across the country. The report also profiles several of our donors and investors, without whom none of this work would be possible.
We're proud of our impact so far, but we also know that our work is far from done. Our founder and inspiration, the late James W. Rouse, once said: "We can't just settle for doing some housing, finding some jobs or building some human support systems. We must do it all – decent housing in decent neighborhoods for everyone."
This year, as we celebrate Mr. Rouse's 100th birthday, we continue working to make his bold vision a reality, moving toward a day when every person has a safe and stable home in a vibrant community. That's our goal, and we can't settle for anything else.
Enterprise is well positioned to lead this effort, with a respected bipartisan reputation in Washington, a huge network of partners and the top talent in the field. But we can't do it alone. We need your help.
We need you to join us as a partner, either through a gift, an investment or help with our work on the ground. We need you to use your voice and get involved, helping us advocate on behalf of low-income families across the country. We need you to help us build a movement – one that will settle for nothing less than stable homes and strong communities for all people.
It will not be easy, and it certainly will not be done overnight. But with enough resources, a lot of energy and your support, we will get there. We hope you'll join us.