A Sobering Thought

Posted: July 18, 2009 in Employment, Family, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Misconceptions, Money, Poverty

Imagine that you’ve lost your job.

It could be that the company you work(ed) for either had to cut a number of positions so that it could stay in business. Or, perhaps they went out of business altogether.

Either way – you’re out of work.  

Sure, you can file for unemployment benefits and perhaps food stamps. But you already know that it won’t be enough to cover your expenses.

So you start looking through the local newspaper’s classified ads. But, jobs are scare.

Unemployment rates across the nation are at 9.5 percent. A number of economic forecasters believe that it will reach 10 percent before the end of the year. That doesn’t give you good odds at finding a job. Even if you do manage to find one, it may not be one which will pay well enough to cover your monthly bills.

Before long, you find that you’ve gotten behind on paying your rent or mortgage. Now you’re potentially facing an eviction or foreclosure. And, that’s when the stress and panic begin to kick in because once you no longer have a place to live, you officially become homeless.

Sound like fiction?

Guess again.

The above scenario plays itself out each and everyday somewhere in the nation – even more so now that the nation is still in the throes of an economic recession.

A recent Associated Press article on MSNBC, said,

"The number of U.S. households on the verge of losing their homes soared by nearly 15 percent in the first half of the year as more people lost their jobs and were unable to pay their monthly mortgage bills."

The article also stated that "Experts don’t expect foreclosures to peak until the middle of next year."

The lack of jobs and a shortage of affordable housing means that folks are turning to their local homeless support service agencies seeking assistance in record numbers. However, there are simply not enough resources – or shelter beds – to meet the demand.

So where do these residentially displaced persons go?

Some ultimately end up in makeshift homeless encampments – often referred to as "tent cities."

You know the kind. They’re the ones which local governments seem so keen on dismantling – despite the homeless having nowhere else to go.

Back in April, I read an online news report from WHAS TV-11 in Louisville, Kentucky about the growing number of tent cities.

One homeless gentleman interviewed had worked in construction for nearly 30 years and – at the time of the interview had been seeking work for 3 years.

Regarding his having to live in a "tent city" he said,

"It’s a terrible situation and believe me, I don’t want to be in it."

Another "tent city" resident – a homeless woman – said,

"I’ve never lived this way and it’s very painful and very hard. And I’m tired of it. There’s too many young, prettier women, that are looking for jobs so it makes it harder for us older women especially ones that aren’t in good health to find a job. And the way the economy is right now it’s double or triple hard."

Most of us are familiar with the homeless stereotypes. They are the ones which come to mind when we hear (or think about) homelessness. And, many folks erroneously believe that all homeless people fit that stereotype.

Perhaps it’s just because they are the ones who are the most visible – and because they are the ones who stand out in sharpest contrast to the rest of the community.

However – and despite – the claims of so many recent headlines that the "face of homelessness" is changing; the old stereotypes haven’t been the "norm" for several decades.

The majority of homeless in any given community are just "regular folk" who have found themselves without a place to call home. Furthermore, many of those regular folk are part of a homeless family.

A Rasmussen poll released yesterday said that roughly 70 percent of American adults believe that family homelessness will continue to increase over the next year. Only 7 percent think that their will be a decline in family homelessness.

Even HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report released last week indicated that there had been 9 percent increase in family homelessness between October 1, 2007 and September 30, 2008.

With economic recovery still some time away, it’s highly probable that more "regular folk" are going to also find themselves homeless.

And, one of those "regular folk" could conceivably be someone you know – or even yourself.

A sobering thought, isn’t it?

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