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Homes For The Homeless

by Susie Cagle

San Francisco’s homeless are harangued and despised while conservative Utah has a radically humane approach

David Hogue isn’t sure that he should tell me his name. He sits in a back office in the shelter where he has lived for the past 18 months, hands folded neatly in his lap. It isn’t that he doesn’t want to talk. He tells me about how he’s had trouble finding work. He tells me about how he’s bounced between homes for years. He tells me about how his brother dropped him off here the day after New Year’s.

But to identify himself as homeless – this is new.

The condition of homelessness is fluid, and so is our definition of it. The United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) placed the homeless population in January 2014 at 578,424, but advocacy groups such as the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness say that more than 3 million Americans experience an episode of homelessness each year: a night, a week or a month in a motel, in a recreation vehicle or on a friend’s couch might not make you ‘homeless’ in the eyes of the federal government, but they certainly define your lived experience.

The US has always had many shades of destitute, but this particular era of homelessness marks a new chapter in the country’s history. The causes of this crisis are no great mystery. Real median household income has plateaued since the 1960s. Adjusted for inflation, minimum wage has fallen since the 1970s. After the manufacturing industry contracted and unemployment grew in the 1980s, the homeless populations in US cities rose precipitously. For the first time since Hooverville – the shanty town built by homeless people during the Great Depression of the 1930s – American poverty was laid bare in its parks and on its streets. Since then, about 600,000 people have lived without a home on any given night in the US.



Slowpoke Toon: Bosom Baddies

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