Homelessness, poverty up across the country

The Great Recession resulted in a significant increase in homelessness according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. In 2009, an additional 20,000 people were added to the numbers of peoples living on the street across the country, an increase of 3 percent. The number of homeless families increased by 4 percent during the same period.

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia saw an increase, the numbers doubled in the state of Wisconsin. In the Deep South state of Mississippi, the number of people in homeless families increased by 260 percent.

Four in ten have no shelter at all.

“While most people experiencing homelessness are sheltered, nearly 4 in 10 were living on the street, in a car, or in another place not intended for human habitation,” says the Alliance’s report, State of Homelessness in America.

The report focused on 2007 to 2009. Figures are expected to be worse for 2010.

“With state and county governments facing huge budget deficits, advocates fear that the numbers in next year’s report, which will look at 2009 to last year, will be even worse,” writes the Washington Post

While joblessness is obviously a contributing factor to the homeless crisis, other economic causes contribute as well, particularly a growing wage depression amongst the poorest section of the working class.

“While real income among all U.S. workers decreased by 1 percent in 2009, poor workers’ income decreased even more, dropping by 2 percent to $9,151. Poor workers in Alaska, the District of Columbia, Maine and Rhode Island saw their incomes decrease by more than 10 percent,” writes the Alliances report.

The new homeless figures coincide with the Census Bureau’s new measure of poverty, reflecting a rise to 15.7 percent from 13.2 the prior year. Among the elderly, the official poverty rate now stands at 16 percent.

Social Security, now apparently the target of GOP cutback efforts again, has been the main resource keeping seniors above the poverty line and properly sheltered.

The Obama administration has a plan for ending homeless in ten years, unveiled in June 2010. The Republican victory in November may cause a change in the president’s ambitious timetable.

Photo: A family’s residence in a tent city in East Providence, R.I. (Stephan Savoia/AP)


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.