Monday, June 14, 2010

The New Homeless

Definitions of what exactly homeless consists of vary from state to state. HUD defines homeless as:

an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and

an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is -

a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);

an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or

a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.

From the Affordable Housing Coalition in Tacoma, Washington:

A person who lacks a fixed and regular nighttime residence. The general public tends to think of "homeless" as persons living on the streets, whereas it can include persons living involuntarily with a friend or family member, living in a car, etc.—anyone without a fixed address.

The bad economy has been causing an increase in homelessness for a couple of years now, but we don't hear much about it any more. In Oregon:

Oregon Housing and Community Services reported once again Wednesday that Oregon homelessness is on the rise. Unemployment tops the list of reasons for the increase.
And, in 2010, children now comprise 31 percent of the state's homeless population. The number of homeless families with children increased 33 percent from the previous year.


Multnomah County conducts its street count in odd-numbered years; therefore, it is safe to assume the 2010 count understates the extent of homelessness in Oregon. Despite this, the number of people identified as homeless increased 12 percent over 2009.

In New York City:

There is no denying homelessness in New York City is on the rise. Not only is the number of homeless living in city shelters at an all-time high of about 39,000, but a new estimate released Friday shows the number of homeless on the street is up 34 percent over last year.

“The number of people experiencing homelessness in our city -- families with children, single adults in shelter -- now on our streets have all increased as a result of the very difficult economic times,” said Robert Hess of the Department of Homeless Services.

In Minnesota:

Wilder Research reported last March a startling 22 percent increase in the number of homeless persons in Minnesota. Turns out that figure was low.

The numbers of those counted as living in shelters, transitional housing and in the woods or on the streets one night last October has actually increased 25 percent compared to three years ago.

These are the people who can be counted. There is no way to count the people who are staying with family or friends.

In 2009, there were all kinds of news stories about tent cities springing up across the country. Apparently the media lost interest in that story. Some cities have eliminated the tent cities. In Colorado Springs:

A no-camping ordinance that took effect in March has helped the HOT cops clear out the tent cities. The ordinance gave them the authority to issue citations for camping on public land, but Iverson said that so far, they’ve only had to issue written warnings.

The big tent city in Sacramento generate huge media coverage. Not so much in 2010.

A year after Sacramento's "tent city" gained global attention and a firestorm of media coverage, the city's homeless problem is still crippling for those down on their luck.

Mayor Kevin Johnson promised to tackle the issue and challenged the media who swarmed to Sacramento: "Come back six months from now, do a follow up story."

The land that was once home to the tent city is now empty and fenced off, but the homeless say the problem has only grown.

Ah, but now the problem is out of sight, and therefore out of mind - and out of media scrutiny.

On a forum for homeless people, I found this discouraging discussion taking place, on how to get into a tent city. You see, they're still out there. We just aren't hearing about them.

cross-posted at Main St/

No comments: