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A History of Homelessness in America

A History of Homelessness in America

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A History of Homelessness in America

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  1. A History of Homelessnessin America Steve Carlson, Psy.D. Director of Supportive Housing Spectrum Community Mental Health, Minneapolis, MN Homelessness 101

  2. Why is this topic important? • Hubert H. Humphrey • George Santayana • Albert Einstein

  3. “It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Hubert H. Humphrey (1911- 1978)

  4. George Santayana

  5. “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them” Albert Einstein

  6. Who is Homeless and Why? • What the homeless have in common • No fixed abode • Poor • Loss of social safety net • Myriad of constitutional factors including • Mental illness (55%) • Substance abuse (23%) • Chronic health condition (46%) • None of the above (26%) • Environmental factors

  7. Multiple Causes of Homelessness Societal Constitutional

  8. Five distinct periods of homelessness • Colonial Period • Urbanization • Industrialization • The Great Depression • Contemporary Period

  9. Colonial Period Beliefs & Attitudes Puritan culture & work ethic, rugged individualism • “Wandering beggars & rogues are a plague to civil society. They should be taken as enemies of this ordinance of God” • William Perkins

  10. Primary causes of homelessness • Agricultural society required skilled and unskilled worker mobility • Continuing territorial skirmishes • Beginnings of business cycles • Immigration

  11. Urbanization (1820 – 1850) Homelessness increases sharply

  12. Primary causes of homelessness • Railroads and telegraph introduce pervasive societal changes • Mills, mines, and dock work offered employment but low job security • Bumpy business cycles

  13. Response by government • Minimalist policy • Tramp room – 1853 • 25,000 used in six month period in NY • Public Outdoor Relief • Strict vagrancy laws

  14. Civil War and Industrialization (1870 – 1900) Homelessness dips significantly during the Civil War then spikes during subsequent economic depressions

  15. Slavery • General Sherman promised “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves. In the end less than 1%, about 3,500, received their allotment. • With very few African Americans able to gain land and assets to give to their children, there is now a home ownership gap where 27% more whites have homes than African Americans (up from 23% in 1940). Sources: Freedmen, The Freed Slaves of the Civil War. www.civilwarhome.com/freedmen.html. Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) and The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP) www.cohre.org/store/attachments/Human-Rights-Resource-Manual.doc

  16. Institutionalized Racism as a cause of homelessness • The U.S. government has broken land treaties with Native Americans and put them into reservations without sufficient resources and opportunities to find jobs, housing, and a better life. • In Minnesota there is a lack of shelter and housing that is culturally appropriate for Native Americans.

  17. Unregulated capitalist economy • Changes in • the nature of work • types of jobs • Deskilling • Demeaning • Dangerous – 1913 • 25,000 deaths • 700,000 injured

  18. Face of homeless after the Civil War“The Great American Hobo” • The hobo and “true” American ideals verses emerging capitalistic values • Hobo’s labeled as “political agitators”

  19. Main causes of homelessness • Veterans from the Civil War • Emerging racism ~ Unequal access to jobs • Unregulated capitalism • Two severe economic downturns • Unemployment near 40% • Immigration • Train hoppers ~ expansion of railroad

  20. The Great DepressionBlack Thursday, October 24, 1929 “Breadline – No One Has Starved” by Reginald Marsh, 1932

  21. From tramp to transient • Homelessness increases significantly • 25% unemployment • Families on the move in search of work • Migrant workers from drought-ridden Midwestern States

  22. Responses to homelessness • FDR’s New Deal • CCC • Federal Transient Service • Charities in conflict about nature of homelessness • Citizens involved • “Impulsive almsgiving” Transient Home Kitchen Wisconsin, 1933

  23. Home Ownership • New Deal programs helped white people become homeowners, but African Americans were considered financial risks and not given loans and federal money to become suburban homeowners. Of the $120 billion of government backed loans to new homeowners between 1934-1962, 98% went to white people. Source: Racial Preferences for Whites: The Houses that Racism Built. Larry Adelman, San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2003

  24. Causesof Homelessness • Severe economic instability • Immigration • Migration from “Dust Bowl” • “Grapes of Wrath” • WWII – homelessness decreases

  25. Skid row community • Camaraderie • Story telling • Casual labor Lobby of cheap lodging house, 1962

  26. Minneapolis skid row demolition • In 1958 men aging out • 50% over 60 • 22% over 70 • In 1962 • 42% lived in SRO’s at $3.35 per week • Successfully housed! • Given $5 and free advice at demolition Gateway District

  27. Contemporary Period (1980–Present) • Homelessness no longer limited to skid row • Homelessness increases sharply and continues to rise • Multiple causes • Deinstitutionalization • Vietnam veterans

  28. Wilder Research Turquoise = Count Blue = Estimate

  29. Main causes of homelessness1973: Wages Peak • In 1973, the average private, non-supervisory, non-agricultural wage reached an all time high of $9.72. By 1983, adjusting for inflation, the same worker was paid $8.76 per hour. (1) Source: The Alliance Report. March – April, 1989. Volume #1, Issue #1. Minneapolis

  30. Source: Western Regional Advocacy Program, 2007.

  31. 1980-1983: Federal programs for poor people are cut • Between 1980 and 1983 alone, $140 billion in domestic spending was cut. • HUD, unemployment, disability, food stamps, and Family welfare programs all received cuts. Source: Open House. A news update from St. Stephen’s Human Services. Holiday 2005. Minneapolis.

  32. Union Strength Declines • In 1981 the Federal Government broke the Air Traffic Controller’s Strike by firing over 11,000 employees, beginning a trend of unions losing leverage to demand fair wages and benefits. • Lack of unions and more service sector jobs make people spend more of their income on healthcare, daycare, etc. [i] USA Today. 2004. Fired air-traffic controller still feels the sting decades later. www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2004-06-10-taylor-vignette_x.htm

  33. 1981-1986: Factories Close • From January 1981 to January 1986, “10.8 million workers lost their jobs due to plant closures, abolition of positions or shifts, or slack work”. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. As cited by Rachel Kamel in The Global Factory. 1990. American Friends Service Committee.

  34. The Worker/CEO Pay Gap • In 1980, the gap between the highest and average paid worker was 42:1. • By 2000, the ratio spiked to 531:1. • Source: Chuck Collins & Felice Yeskel, Economic Apartheid in America .

  35. Rental Rates and Income • Minimum Wage in Minnesota is $7.25/hour which equals $15,080/yr • Annual income needed to afford a one bedroom FMR apt: $27,960. A two bedroom: $33,920. • 1-Bedroom: $27,960-15,080 = $12,880 unmet need • 2-Bedroom $33,920-15,080 = $18,840 unmet need Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

  36. Affordable Housing/Gentrification • Housing should cost no more than 30% of a household’s annual income • 1973-1993: 2.2 million low-rent units disappeared from the market • 1991-1995: median rental costs rose 21% • HUD has stopped building public housing and housing projects are being demolished across US Source:National Coalition for the Homeless (2008). Why are people homeless? Retrieved October 19th, 2008 from, http://www.nationalhomeless.org/publications/facts/why.html

  37. Per night costs of Homelessness • Adult shelter $32 • Youth shelter $125 • Jail $363 • Hospital $2800 • Detox $192 • Camping $16 (annual car sticker $28) • Supportive housing $21

  38. In 2012 & beyond • Collaboration of agencies • Creativity in spectrum of housing options • Public will - Educate the public about the systemic causes of homelessness • Increase affordable housing stock • Lobbying for government legislation