That forlorn looking couple standing in front of their house holding a pitchfork in the Grant Wood painting American Gothic are on their way to the homeless shelter. More than 500,000 people from rural areas and small towns are seeking a cot at homeless shelters and this is up 57% from 2007 to 2010. This number of people if they were a city would rank 33rd in population between Tucson AZ and Fresno CA. This “small town” would be larger than 42 state capitals and also qualify as the 103rd largest metropolitan area.
Of course this is only the rural homeless and in total 1.56 million are without shelter in the US and this population would rank as the 39th metropolitan area at about the same size as greater Milwaukee Wisconsin and larger than metro areas of Jacksonville FL, Memphis TN, Louisville KY or Richmond VA. It would 2.5 times larger in population than the District of Columbia The total homeless population is also larger than any state capital just edging out Phoenix AZ.
These are of course only the “official” homeless who find themselves on the street at least part of the year. On any given night it’s estimated that people in shelters or out of doors totals 750,000. But this doesn’t begin to cover the total number of Americans who don’t have a home, it just counts those who have run out of options. If you can stay with friends, family or just never register with a social services agency seeking shelter you won’t be counted as homeless, officially you are still living the American Dream.
Of the 80 million baby boomers, fully half report having at least one adult child living with them which is another 40 million plus people without a home of their own.
In the last Census there were 15.5 million multi-family households, again not counted as homeless, a number that has doubtless grown in the past year and will continue to rise with 1.7 million foreclosures in process and many more on hold as banks struggle to unload houses already on the market.
Multi-family households are mostly two or three generations of the same family with Social Security going a long ways to keep everybody from living out doors. Over 54 million people live this way according to the Census but they don’t count siblings who live together or single adults living with parents so the number of people who can’t afford housing is much larger, tens of millions larger. You may in fact be talking about a third of the population, if not now, it will come soon enough. But this is the age of “new normal”, so a roof over your head is counted as a good thing no matter how stressful or tenuous.
At minimum wage, even two people working fulltime cant’ afford an apartment in any market and this is the reason that a third of the homeless are rural poor. No more going home to grandpa’s farm like folks did in the last Great Depression, the farm is long gone. Work is scarce in rural area with 58,000 factories closed in the last ten years. People who don’t live under the threat of deportation don’t get hired for migrant work anymore like in the good old days the “Grapes of Wrath“ so that isn‘t an option, but there are Hoovervilles down by the river or in the wooded areas beside the Interstate just like in the good old days.
We could really use a “New Deal” in this country but the vestigial elements of that are being stripped away under the slogan “we’re broke” so we can’t afford to take care of the poor, the sick and the elderly. The homeless better pull themselves up by their bootstraps.
The truth is the exact opposite of course. Even with the economy devastated by Reaganomics if we simply returned to Clinton era tax collection rates which were extremely low by pre-Reagan standards we would run huge surpluses. If we eliminated everything stupid that has been done since Reagan we would be enjoying the kind of growth only the godless communist Chinese have today. The kind of growth we used to have before greed became good. www.prairie2.com