Working and Homeless

Posted: November 28, 2008 in Employment, Family, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Politics, Poverty

One website I’ve been visiting with a bit of frequency is The official name of the site is, The Office of the President-Elect, and outlines some of President-Elect Obama’s agenda once he takes office.

At the top of page which outlines his agenda to help middle class families, it contains a quote from his June 15, 2007 speech in Spartanburg, SC:  

"…[A]t the dawn of the 21st century we also have a collective responsibility to recommit ourselves to the dream; to strengthen that safety net, put the rungs back on that ladder to the middle-class, and give every family the chance that so many of our parents and grandparents had. This responsibility is one that’s been missing from Washington for far too long – a responsibility I intend to take very seriously as President."

I most certainly agree that helping middle class families is one of the many responsibilities which have noticeably been missing from Washington – so much so that many families find themselves on the verge of losing "house and home."

According to the page,

"At a time when costs are rising and Americans are working harder just to keep up, Barack Obama will provide relief for the middle class and support for working people. In addition to his health care and tax relief plans, Obama will make college affordable, reform our bankruptcy and credit card laws, protect the balance between work and family, and put a secure and dignified retirement within the reach of all Americans. Obama has been a strong advocate for working people throughout his public life, and he will stand up to special interests and bring America together to reclaim the American dream."

One thing which I noticed that was suspiciously missing from that paragraph was mention of what the President-Elect intends to do to help the working homeless regain a foothold back into society.

On the National Coalition for the Homeless website, the fact sheet, Employment and Homelessness, states:

"The connection between impoverished workers and homelessness can be seen in homeless shelters, many of which house significant numbers of full-time wage earners. A survey of 23 U.S. cities found that 17.4% of homeless adults who had children were employed while 13% of single adults or unaccompanied youth were employed."

Most of the barriers faced by the nation’s homeless in finding gainful employment are a direct result of the many negative stereotypes and misconceptions regarding homelessness. Consequently the types of jobs which the working homeless are able to find do not provide earnings that will allow them to move ahead in life.

Case in point –

An article in the The Concord Monitor, Mother works full time but lives in a shelter, outlines the struggles faced by Sarah Gloudemans – a single mother, with a 2-year old daughter, who lives at the Friends Emergency Shelter in Concord, New Hampshire.

Ms. Gloudemans works full time at a local Wendy’s fast food restaurant. In the evenings when she goes "home," it is to a room at the shelter which she and her daughter currently call home. It is a small room: measuring only 8 foot by 6 foot – which is slightly larger than a closet. In fact, with a total floor space of only 48 square feet it is, in many ways, smaller than many of the tents which can be found at most sporting goods stores.

The article went on to say,

"With a full-time job and a toddler, Sarah, 26, might seem an unlikely shelter resident. But she is part of what homeless advocates in Concord say is a worrying trend: working-class families who find themselves without permanent homes. The number of individuals and families seeking shelter in Concord has increased in recent weeks as colder weather takes hold. To help address the problem, city officials hope to convert the former Dewey School into a temporary winter shelter for families."

… and quotes Ms Gloudemans as saying,

"I know I want to do something different, but I feel trapped with the way the economy is."

Ms. Gloudemans isn’t alone in her sentiment – or her circumstances. Many homeless feel the same. They seek an avenue of escape from the streets, but find that society isn’t exactly offering them a welcoming hand.

With more and more jobs being lost to outsourcing and corporate downsizing; an economy that is in recession (despite no one wanting to use that word); and a national unemployment rate which is currently over 6 percent and rising, the homeless are at a distinct disadvantage.

The thing about homelessness is that it’s costly.

It actually costs taxpayers more to continue funding homeless "support" services than it would be to fund programs which could potentially help the homeless transition back into the mainstream of society. Unfortunately, these types of programs aren’t being implemented and funded because everyone wants a quick solution.

Even the so called "10 year plans" to end homelessness will not have a significant impact at reducing the numbers of homeless because they are too narrowly tailored, and only provide relief to a small segment of the nation’s homeless: the chronically homeless. The do nothing to help the working homeless find their way back into the community.

While I applaud President-Elect Obama’s goal for helping the working middle-class, it seems to me that upon taking office, he needs to also immediately address the issue of affordable housing.

If not, there are going to be more and more folks who are going to find themselves working and homeless.

  1. Jim says:

    Me and my wife both have to work to pay our bills every month. Sometimes we barely make it through. There were a sometimes when we thought we might not be able to pay our rent and would have to move. We’re lucky because we’d be able to move in with my folks but if we didn’t have them we might end up just like the mom and her kid that you wrote about. I hope she gets help from somebody.

  2. Skye says:

    I suspect that the homeless aren’t mentioned by Mr. Obama because either he or his administration feel that the homeless are somewhat of a lost cause. Or at least a very troubling issue that they don’t want to address without a “viable” solution and a certain hope of success. If he doesn’t mention doing anything for them, he can’t be held accountable in the future for not keeping promises.

  3. Diane Nilan says:

    It’s up to us–those concerned with issues surrounding homelessness–to put the issue on the overcrowded agenda of our long-awaited new president.

  4. As If says:

    I work full time, have 2 children, am homeless, my wages are being garnished even though the debt is disputed and the collector has known this for over a year. Even if I could afford a place to live my credit reports are blotched because of this for the next 7 years and they are WRONG and have always been wrong and I still am waiting for the credit bureaus to get a response to no due process or discovery. I am homeless and due to bad life events all at once and economy impoverished, not stupid.

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