‘It’s the most stressful thing’: Rising gas prices in the United States are another blow for the homeless | Inflation

FFor five months, Anna Hokuf has lived in her car with her cat after leaving a violent family environment. Trying to save enough money to secure a flat by doing odd jobs while homeless was hard enough for the 19-year-old. Now rising gas prices have made all of that impossible.

“I don’t have the ability to save a lot of money and with gas prices being so high it’s almost $4 a gallon, it’s really hard to be homeless,” said Hokuf, from the Lehigh Valley area of ​​Pennsylvania. “I have to keep my car on all the time to stay warm and to keep my cat warm which wastes more gas and has put a strain on my car.”

It takes about $60 to fill the tank of Hokuf’s car and about $40 a day to keep the gasoline warmed up at night. Her food options are limited as she has no means of reheating food. She showers and does laundry intermittently whenever she can earn enough money for a hotel room for a night or two. “Unfortunately, any money I can get usually goes towards gas or my cat’s food,” she said.

Gasoline prices have skyrocketed over the past year and are expected continue to climb as the Russian invasion of Ukraine further disrupts oil production, which was already suffering from the impact of Covid-19. Last week, the price of oil hit its highest level in more than seven years and the war threatens to stoke the already troubling inflation problems in the United States.

The Biden administration has promised to take measures to curb the rise in gas prices with the announcement of economic sanctions against Russia, which is the second largest producer and exporter of oil in the world. So far, the sanctions did not include Russia’s oil and gas industry, as Europe relies heavily on it, which would drive oil prices even higher.

According to the American Automobile Association, the average gallon of gasoline in the United States is $3.619 as of March 1, up from $2.72 a gallon a year ago. States with the highest average gas prices include California at $4.837 per gallon and Hawaii at $4.565 per gallon, with Arkansas being the lowest at $3.243 per gallon.

Oil companies have reaped huge profits from rising gas prices over the past year, with the 24 largest oil companies reporting $174 billion in profits in the first nine months of 2021 as companies have rejected requests to increase oil production to mitigate price increases.

Meanwhile, rising gas prices are disproportionately hurting low-income Americans, especially a growing segment of the homeless American population that lives out of their vehicles.

In Michigan, a young woman living in her car who asked to remain anonymous is making money delivering food and groceries through gig apps, spending $10 to $15 a day at 100 $ per day in gasoline. They have been living in their car since late December after losing their jobs in September and could not afford to stay in their apartment. They rely on a Planet Fitness gym membership to shower regularly

“Having to idle to warm up when I’m in colder regions definitely impacts my gas mileage,” they said. “I don’t have the greatest credit, so buying a home is currently out of reach for me, and with skyrocketing rents and most incomes requiring two to three times the rent, it’s impossible to find anything affordable.”

Louie Vashiomiattii of Auburn, Washington, moved into his van about two months ago when his landlord of three years chose to sell the house where he was renting a basement apartment, and he couldn’t afford to move into a new apartment in the area as rents have skyrocketed over the past year.

“It’s the most stressful thing I deal with every day,” Vashiomiattii said. “I hadn’t realized how much gas would cost when I moved into my van.”

He spends about $40 a day on gasoline, much of which is used for warmth during the winter. He currently works in retail and struggles to save money with high gas prices as apartments in his area require first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit. .

Rising gas prices are also significantly hurting rideshare drivers, who already operate on low profit margins.

Ben Valdez, a part-time Uber driver in Los Angeles, Calif., for six years, has reduced his hours only when peak prices are available as gas prices in the area hit around $5 a day. gallon.

“As gas prices went up and demand went down, I started to see less and less of a reason to drive,” said Valdez, who spends between $35 a night and $75 to fill up. gasoline. “A lot of drivers are starting to feel the pinch. It’s really, really expensive to put gas in there.

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