Is a 1930’s type “Great Depression” on its way?

Posted: March 18, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Children, Employment, Family, Government, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Morality, Politics, Poverty

So… are we headed for a 1930’s style "Great Depression" in the near future?

According to a CNN poll, 45% of Americans believe that one is likely to occur within the next year. That number is 7 percentage points higher than the 38% of last December. In addition, only 10% percent of Americans believe that the nation can achieve economic recovery with the next year, while 20% say they believe that "… it will take longer than four years for the country to get back on its feet."

A similar poll by Rasmussen Reports, states that 53% of Americans believe we’re heading for a "Great Depression" within the next two years.  

There was one sentence from the Rasmussen poll that really caught my eye:

"The most recent survey also found that half of all adults (49%) say today’s children will not be better off than their parents."

It’s understandable why American’s are worried.

Unemployment is on the rise. Nearly 3 million have lost their jobs within the last four months. The number of affordable housing units is shrinking. And many families are either on the verge of homelessness or have already become homeless.

For those families who do not have a safety net, this means seeking help from local shelters. Unfortunately, the shelter system is already strained to the breaking point. As a result, an increasing numbers of families are being turned away with their requests for emergency shelter being unmet.

Homelessness among families is not a new phenomenon. Their numbers have been rising steadily since the early 1980’s.

The U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services report, Special Populations of Homeless Americans, in the section titled "Social Units: Homeless Families" states:

"Not since the Great Depression have significant numbers of families and children been on the streets. Beginning in the early 1980’s, families with young children in tow have become one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population and now comprise approximately 36 percent of the overall numbers.

. . .

Who are homeless families and what are their needs? Most are headed by women in their late 20’s with approximately 2 children, the majority of whom are less than 6 years old."

What I find disturbing is the lack of available resources to assist these families.

Based on the report, it is apparent that the government had already become aware of the growing numbers of homeless families back then. Yet, little or nothing of any substantive value had been done to reverse or remedy the situation.

Had proper action been taken; had "safety nets" been put into place; perhaps the numbers of displaced families might not be as high as they are. At the very least, a reasonable amount of resources might now be available to help them.

As it is, based on what I’ve been reading in the news, families – in particular, single mothers with dependant children – are the ones who are being hit the hardest by the current economic recession. If indeed the nation does experience a Great Depression similar to that of the 1930’s, some of them will experience homelessness for extended periods of time.

As difficult as it is for a single person to transition from homelessness and back into the community, for a single mother it can be even more so. The well being of her children becomes the priority. Without some form of assistance, she is at an extreme disadvantage.

If she does not have a place where she can safely leave her children during the day, the ability to seek gainful employment is hampered. This potentially leaves her with the single option of applying for "welfare assistance." However, becoming a "welfare mom" poses its own set of drawbacks.

Although she will probably be required to actively seek a job, it is more than likely that once she does become employed, her benefits will be reduced if what she earns happens to be more than the income limit. And while, that may seem reasonable, consider that her job may not pay more than minimum wage – hardly a guarantee for a better life for her and her children.

In essence, because of the way the "system" operates, she – and her children – will become trapped in poverty. That’s a far cry from being able to pursue the American Dream.

We may or may not experience a "Great Depression" like the one of the 1930’s. Only time will tell.

However, unless we do some serious revamping of the homeless support systems in this nation; unless we expand its range of assistance – those who fall into homelessness during these economically difficult times may never be able to rise out of it.

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