Although the number of folks filing for first time unemployment benefits dropped in May, the numbers rose once again in June. As a result, last week the U.S. Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate had risen to a 26 year high of 9.5 percent.
In addition, many economists are predicting that the "jobless rate" will rise to 10 percent before the year is over.
One by-product of the high unemployment rate has been an increase in the numbers of folks becoming homeless – particularly families.
The National Center on Family Homelessness fact sheet, The Characteristics and Needs of Families Experiencing Homelessness, points out that:
- Among industrialized nations, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children.
- Not since the Great Depression have so many families been without homes.
- Homeless families comprise roughly 34% of the total homeless population.
- Most single-parent families are female-headed (71%). Single-parent families are among the poorest in the nation and as such, are extremely vulnerable to homelessness.
- 42% of children in homeless families are under age six.
There are several obstacles which make it difficult for these single-parent families to move out of homelessness and back into the mainstream community.
An absence of adequate numbers of affordable housing units is one barrier these families face. In addition, not having a safe place to leave their children during the day makes it difficult for the parent to seek gainful employment. Consequently, this increases the likelihood that single-parent families will remain homeless for longer periods of time.
One specific demographic of female-headed, single-parent families which made headlines just recently caught me completely by surprise. And – it had to do with U.S. Veterans.
The Boston Globe article, More female veterans are winding up homeless, stated,
"As more women serve in combat zones, the share of female veterans who end up homeless, while still relatively small at an estimated 6,500, has nearly doubled over the last decade, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.
For younger veterans, it is even more pronounced: One out of every 10 homeless vets under the age of 45 is now a woman, the statistics show.
And unlike their male counterparts, many have the added burden of being single parents."
Considering that this past weekend our nation celebrated Independence Day, it seems to me a bit socially distorted that so many American Veterans are homeless.
And, it’s heart-wrenching for me to think that while many Americans were busy at their backyard barbeques, picnic gatherings and attending fireworks displays, that thousands of female Veterans – along with their children – had no place of their own to call home this weekend.
To be sure, President Obama has moved toward providing funding to help our nation’s homeless Veterans.
His administration has allocated $75 million to local public housing authorities nationwide. But that amount still falls short of the mark. It will only provide assistance for about 10,000 of the nation’s 200,000+ homeless Veterans.
Currently, homeless assistance programs offered through the Department of Veterans Affairs are geared to accommodate single male Veterans. Therefore, it is questionable just how much of that funding will actually help homeless female Veterans – especially those who are single-parents – since their needs are drastically different than those of their male counterparts.
I’m sure that most folks have some opinion regarding the current military campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan. All the same, we shouldn’t allow those personal views to conflict with providing our nation’s Veterans with the support they need to re-enter society.
I imagine that the majority of fireworks displays, which were held throughout the nation this past weekend, were exciting to see. All of them were symbolic of the "rockets red glare."
But now, that we’ve gotten past the "dawn’s early light," it’s time we take a look around us and recognize that the freedoms we so often take for granted were bought and paid for through the sacrifices of our nation’s Veterans.
It’s time we begin to repay that debt.