Homelessness Has No “Soft Landing”

Posted: July 23, 2009 in Employment, Homeless Shelters, Homelessness, Housing, Money, Poverty

For the past couple of days, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has been testifying before Congress.

Yesterday, he told the Senate Banking Committee that the unemployment rate could reach as high as 10.1 percent by the end of the year.  

According to a UPI news report,

"… the unemployment increase could put the kibosh on the Fed projection the U.S. economy will grow again by year end and expand at a modest 2.1 percent to 3.3 percent next year, he said.

Rising unemployment could also push the already dramatic rise in home-mortgage defaults and foreclosures higher still, Bernanke said."

But – as the saying goes – that’s only the tip of the iceberg.

The opening sentence of an analysis report released by the National Employment Law Project last Friday stated:

"A sobering analysis released today by the National Employment Law Project estimates that 540,000 Americans will exhaust their unemployment insurance benefits by the end of September, and a whopping 1.5 million will run out of coverage by the end of the year."

All of this points to a high probability for a continued increase in the numbers of homeless.

Unfortunately, there hasn’t been an equally adequate increase in resources or services to help those folks. As a result, once the newly homeless have exhausted any other "options" they may have had, they will ultimately turn for assistance from the homeless shelter system in their communities only to be turned away because all of the available beds are already full.

In the end, those who are turned away will be forced to seek alternate sleeping accommodations: their vehicles (if they have one); behind buildings; in pubic parks; bus stops; and etcetera.

After reading both, the UPI article and the National Employment Law Project’s analysis report, I wondered how many people who have become homeless ever believed that homelessness could happen to them.

With as many news reports I’ve read about folks who have become homeless, I don’t recall ever reading that any of them believed that they’ve find themselves living on the streets. Most of them, in fact, didn’t think it could.

But, then another thought occurred to me.

Most – if not all – homeless shelters have some type of paid staff and employees.

Many of them also have "volunteer" staff members. In addition, there are those who make donations and financial contributions to their local area shelters.

It’s pretty safe to conclude that not every one of those folks is independently wealthy. I’m willing to guess that the majority of them were probably somewhere in the "middle class" range. Some of them may have even struggled through trying to make ends meets.

I wonder how many of those folks may have had to turn to the very homeless support services agencies they once helped?

As stressful and demoralizing an experience it is to find one’s self homeless, it must be even more so for someone who has, at one time or another, either volunteered at or donated to a homeless support service organization.

Even worse would be for them to arrive at the homeless shelter and find that they can’t get in because there isn’t room.

The "safety net" they may have believed was in place to catch them as they fall, just isn’t there.

And, when it comes to homelessness – there is no such thing as a "soft landing."

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