Five Point One

Posted: April 6, 2008 in Employment, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Poverty

I don’t know of anything that irritates me more than when a public official or an "expert" says something without seemingly engaging their brain before opening their mouth.

Yesterday while reading the article, "Huge job losses set off recession alarms," in the SLO Tribune, I had to shake my head in disgust at a quote of a Mr. Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group. His wonderful words of wisdom?

"If you’ve got a job, hang on to it the best you can."

Well, duh!  

Why do these people have to say something that everyone and their mother’s son already know and make it sound as though they’re the Oracle at Delphi proclaiming some grand revelation; some noteworthy insight? Don’t these people know they don’t have to tell us the incredibly obvious? Don’t they realize that the merely obvious will do just fine?

Of course, Mr. Hoffman, in all of wit and wisdom, had to try and be cutesy about it, saying,

"It is now very clear that the fat lady has sung for the economic expansion. The country has slipped into a recession."

Well, gee whiz! I wonder just how long it took Mr. Hoffman to come to that conclusion and recognize something most of us already knew?

In the meanwhile, as I was becoming irritated by Mr. Hoffman’s obtuse statements, I was becoming concerned with something else the article pointed out: there were 80,000 jobs cut during the month of March, for a total of 232,000 jobs lost since January 1st of this year. That pushes the unemployment rate up to 5.1 percent! That means that there approximately 7.8 million people who are unemployed.

These aren’t people who have been fired for not doing their jobs. Becoming unemployed wasn’t their choice. These folks are unemployed because their job doesn’t exist any longer.

According to the article,

The grim picture described by the Labor Department on Friday provided stark evidence of just how much the jobs market has buckled under the weight of the housing, credit and financial crises. Businesses and jobseekers alike are feeling the pain.

Of the quarter million plus who have found themselves without employment since the beginning of the year, what their specific demographics are the article doesn’t say. But I think it’s safe to conclude that some of them have dependant families. Without an income, and unless they are able to find replacement employment within a reasonable amount of time, some of them may find themselves homeless.

That’s not something pleasant to think about. In fact, it is highly disturbing.

Homeless support service agencies and organizations all across the nation are already stained to the breaking point. They barely have the resources to serve the homeless we currently have without adding to the numbers. More and more people are being turned away at the door. Requests by families for emergency shelter are going unmet. The number of persons who must sleep without a "roof" over their head is increasing at an alarming rate.

The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, "Why Are People Homeless?" says this,

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty.

Two factors help account for increasing poverty: eroding employment opportunities for large segments of the workforce, and the declining value and availability of public assistance.

I find it distasteful that so many folks think that the entire cure for homelessness is for the homeless to just go out and find work. Some folks are even so arrogant as to yell out at a homeless person, "Get a job, you bum!" Doesn’t it occur to them that jobs are scarce; that they are hard to come by? If it were so easy to just go out and find work, there wouldn’t be 7.8 million people currently unemployed.

I have no way of knowing how many of those 7.8 million will eventually find themselves homeless. I hope that none of them will have to find out what it’s like not to have a place to live. But, I believe that it’s overly optimistic not to expect that – at the very least – several thousands of them won’t become homeless.

Those that do might very well be people we know. They might be the folks next door. They might be someone we used to work with. They could be a family member of a friend – or even one of our own families. It could even be one of us.

And if it turns out that it is someone we know who finds themselves homeless, how will it make us feel when some fool idiot yells out at them to "get a job?"

What if it’s us whose job gets cut? If we find ourselves homeless, will we want to have someone to look down on us as though we were lazy? Will we appreciate having someone tell us the obvious: if we just get a job we might be able to get off the streets; we might have a chance at having a "home" once again?

Home may be where the heart is at, however, that’s of little comfort if you’re sleeping behind a building in a darkened alleyway or under a bush somewhere.

It certainly won’t console those who have recently found themselves unemployed and who may find themselves homeless. And, it certainly won’t help when they find that there just aren’t enough homeless support services to go around.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    I share your disdain for government officials who sit and proclaim what workers of this country already know ~ we are facing serious economic hardships.

    Our “leaders” have putzed around with making so sure we are competitive on a global scale that they seem to have forgotten the fact that that we need to have a strong economy to be a major player in the global community. As a nation we are only as strong as our individual communities… and when we have citizens without jobs,citizens without a place to call home, citizens without basic healthcare coverage then we should refocus our efforts to taking care of America first.

    Sadly, many of the charitable contributions to organizations who serve the homeless in our communities will notice a severe cut in donations during times of economic hardships.

  2. Bruno says:

    I’m not surprised.

What's your opinion?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s