Homelessness in America

Solving Homelessness in America

The issue with homelessness in the US continues into 2021.  And in fact, the problem is set to worsen given home prices are rising and we’re not out of the Covid 19 pandemic recession.

The issue with homelessness is simple. Not much incentive for building new housing and most of the available financial resources are going to the wealthy or are being sent out of the US to foreign markets.  The polarization of American income is worsening because no one is willing to step and control the problem.

NIMBYism is a plague where governments and local residents prevent building in their districts.  Residents don’t want new developments because of the deterioration of their communities, rising taxes, and the character of their neighborhoods change for the worse.

Further, more Americans are falling into the poverty trap and can’t back out.  The pandemic pushed them into this pit of despair, and jobs, affordable housing, and the spirit of optimism has disappeared.  California is the worst hit by far, but homelessness is a growing problem across the US.

The one positive trend is the migration of residents to new cities.

While workers are leaving cities like New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Washington, their employers might not be far behind them.

While the economic recovery is a great thing, there is no message of support about ongoing unemployment. Technology and company downsizing are a big threat to many workers, particularly young ones, such as you see in the protest videos.

Yes, Bring the Jobs Back from China Now

President Trump’s agenda of bringing jobs back from China, improving poverty and homelessness, and powering up a renaissance of small US businesses didn’t work.

Raising the China Tariffs, didn’t work nor did providing big tax breaks for investors and corporations, who insisted on keeping production and more business activity in the cheap labor zones.

We can agree that President Trump failed to improve things, but is the new regime’s leader going to do any better?  Once the Federal stimulus money ends, we could see terrible outcomes for the homeless.  The solution is immediate and dramatic, federally aided home construction so workers can move to wherever jobs occur.

Rising Stock Prices During Pandemic is Angering the Poor

A positive stock market forecast is good, but it might not be viewed the same by those suffering in the pandemic.  In a country like the USA, with such out of control wealth for corporations (Amazon, Google, Facebook, Tesla), there is no excuse for such poverty and for a lack of concern about the system leaving people behind.  This is what the protestors are rioting about.

There is a clear connection between politics (local control of real estate), interest rates, real estate investmentreal estate economics and homelessness. The housing market is increasingly for the privileged.

It all comes back to whether businesses have the right to outsource production to cheap labor markets and still have free access to US markets.

The thing we need to know about poverty and homelessness is how it relates to big business control of wages and the polarization of wealth. For someone to make huge profits, someone else has to get leveraged — for cheap.

That meant the unions and middle class had to be eradicated. President Reagan made sure of that but not in his wildest dreams did could he visualize the devastating effects Free Trade would come to have on American life and culture, and how it would ravage the middle class around the world, but mostly in the United States.

Homelessness/poverty are a support mechanism for politicians and big business trying to get rid of wage pressure and to lower taxes. Zero wages are the ultimate goal of many International companies and monopolies. They rely on local and state politicians to rationalize the damage to the populace, who come up with the usual “lazy bums did it to themselves” media posts. Is President Trump doing enough to change things?

Not Everyone is Doing Fine

Yes, the 2019 economy is so hot, it’s even putting those considered unemployable back to work. Very promising jobs outlook however there are still over 500,000 adults and children in North America who are homeless. Hundreds of thousands more are on the edge even though they’re working. Now that the China trade deficit is behind, America has an opportunity to eliminate homelessness.

Despite booming economic predictions and stock market forecast, homelessness is a persistent blight on our society and drain on GDP. While big financial aid has poured out of the US (and Canada) to developing nations (e.g., Trudeau gave $840 million to Syria, while Obama gave $400 million to Iran), without public consultation, there is little concern for citizens here.

In 2011, President Obama publicly stated that adding trillions to the national debt was unpatriotic, then proceeded to pay out trillions to foreign countries during his term, including $400 million in cash to Iran.

By 2016, Obama had raised the national debt to $20 Trillion. American citizens and their children’s future were the last thing on his mind, but paying the growing interest on that debt in addition to your rent or mortgage will be on your mind.

Fortunately, jobs are returning from China and investment funds are working here to build American (and Canadian) industry. Killing free trade won’t end homelessness though. Only a focus on a baseline level of income combined with a roof over people’s heads will work. Poor people can’t solve a national problem.

It’s important not to feel guilty about poverty, but rather to feel the need to force government to end homelessness.  A focus on poverty and homelessness helps to create a fertile environment for middle class growth too.

International business and governments conspire to create poverty and homelessness but this issue is more important than a fist full of cheap labor driven profits. The Fed intends to raise interests not to control consumer prices, but instead to suppress wages and generate a desired level of unemployment.

These are industrial-era economic tactics that are cruel to human beings. There’s more in the economic report about how evil these autocrats can be and how low wages and high unemployment are just part of their intent.

The homeless problem is international, yet one country has found a solution. There’s other solutions below. If we focus on solutions, our mindset will change to enable them.

Got A Job? It Doesn’t Matter

Today, the traditional homeless person is being joined by those from the ranks of the hardworking employed population. More working people are falling into serious trouble because as rent and housing costs rise, they get evicted, and there’s nowhere to go.  And then there are seniors and students. Homelessness is growing right now in California, Texas, Arizona, Florida, New York and Washington.

Homelessness is Not the Way you Thought

The videos below show how creative people are in the face of incredible adversity and little compassion shown to them. There’s some fascinating stories here about real people in real life. From well-paid high tech programmers in Silicon Valley to people injured through crimes, to fast food workers, we see them adapting to a cold, dispassionate system.

Homelessness by Circumstance

  • 39,471 war veterans
  • 194,716 people in families with children
  • 77,486 individuals and 8,646 people in families with children with chronic patterns of homelessness
  • 35,686 unaccompanied homeless youth
Screenshot courtesy of The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress

Illusions Smashed

Homelessness is a hot topic because many people realize how close they themselves and their family members are to not being able to pay their mortgage or rent.  With interest rates poised to rise, some will face the foreclosure to street fate. There’s nowhere to move to even if you have a job.

More working poor have no home. And their wages aren’t keeping up to inflation, home prices, or local apartment rent increases. The US housing markets still don’t provide housing for the working poor or homeless.

A short period of unemployment could millions into a spiral of bankruptcy to homelessness. How secure is our job and income in the era of outsourcing, robots and AI? Yes, the jobs forecast is great, but how long will the good times roll?

Half A Million and Counting

554,000 Americans officially fall into the homeless designation, but it’s thought the real number is much higher. It’s risen about 1% over the last year (yet down over the last 10 years) and in New York it’s risen over 4%. From Anchorage to Miami to Los Angeles, homelessness is a pressing issue.

Governments in Canada and the US have had little success in dealing with affordable housing, housing development, housing market bubbles, and poverty alleviation. Although the Trump administration is creating jobs, the benefits haven’t reached many of the homeless and working poor in cities across the US.

When the topic is discussed formally, the problem is blamed on laziness, mental illness, drug addiction, crime and self-destructive behavior. If wages aren’t keeping up, and rent prices rise fast, more working poor will fall into homelessness. The old “mentally ill” tag won’t explain anything.

One Paycheck Away from the Street

While such antipathy reigns in the public mind, it’s well known that more than 50% of people are one paycheck away from the street. It’s no different in the European Union where the UK, and Germany have seen big increases. And in France, homelessness has increased 50% since 2017.

The Gig Economy

An additional element is the gig economy, it’s basically a part time work environment where pay is low. Gig workers are lured to California where they work for big multinational corporations such as the FAANG companies (cheap labor). They make less than $20,000 per year in a state where yearly rent can surpass $24,000. They can barely make ends meet and many actually live out of their vehicles.

California is experimenting with allowing parking lots to be occupied by those living in vehicles overnight. Will the gig economy workers soon be joining the homeless as rents skyrocket?

Rents Rising Fast in Many Cities

And with rents skyrocketing in cities such as San Jose, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Portland, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington and New York, more working people are living out of their vehicles. And more stressed homeowners are working long hours, sometimes 7 days a week to hang onto their homes. With interest rates rising fast, we can see a looming disaster.

The city of San Francisco has become so expensive that people making 80% to 120% of the median income ($82,900 as of April) have become susceptible to rent burden, according to the San Francisco Planning Commission — housingwire report on homelessness.

They look at us like we’re zoo animals. Just because we’re homeless doesn’t mean we’re all bad” — from video report on homeless people in Portland, Oregon.

California is Worst for Homelessness

The state of California has the biggest problem with homelessness. The numbers of the homeless rose 13.7% from 2016 to 2017. An estimated 134,000 people are homeless in California. Some are migrants from other states, yet many are people who have lived in their neighborhoods for decades. With babyboomers reaching retirement without sufficient funds to support themselves, the picture looks grim.

“We are now seeing what has taken decades of neglect to fester,” said Sharon Rapport, associate director for California policy at the Corporation for Supportive Housing in Los Angeles. “When you don’t have programs for a long time and then you try to create something new, it does take a culture shift.” — LA Times report on government problems.


An LA times report on homelessness reveals that billions of dollars earmarked to aid homeless populations, but the money is held up in the courts.

“We now know that there is a very close connection between housing costs and homelessness,” said Margot Kushel, director of the University of California San Francisco Center for Vulnerable Populations — report on Mercury News

Homelessness in Los Angeles


Is It Better in Silicon Valley?

This video portrays the many problems launched by a booming economy and the displacement of people from their home neighborhoods because they can’t afford to live there any longer. The era of free trade was full of intense disparities and the new US based economy is adding to everyone’s pain.

Infographic courtesy of 2017 SANTA CLARA COUNTY HOMELESS CENSUS & SURVEY- sccgov.org

The US and certain parts of Canada are very attractive to foreign investors, thus pushing up home prices and rents to ridiculous levels. While the transition takes place, a lot of people will lose their homes or rental situation. With no housing available, they, their children and pets will end up on the street.

Solutions for Homelessness

Has anyone stumbled upon a solution for homelessness? Or is homelessness a symptom of economies and housing markets? Does a lack of affordable housing equate to homelessness regardless of economic prosperity?

Finland has turned all its homeless shelters into supportive housing units. It is the only country to reduce homelessness. They don’t believe in managing homelessness. They ensure homeless people get housing so they can deal with their other challenges first, which makes it easier for them to find jobs. And yes, going for interviews after you’ve slept outside on the ground all night is likely tough. Finland’s housing first policy seems to have had a positive outcome.

“there is ample evidence from many countries that shows it is always more cost-effective to aim to end homelessness instead of simply trying to manage it. ” — from report in the Guardian .

Of course, Finland’s homeless numbers and rent crisis pales in comparison to what you see in cities such as San Jose, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Portland, Toronto and Vancouver.  And Finland may be into its own Free Trade withdrawal issues soon too.

The point to effective homeless solutions is compassion, sincerity, helpfulness, and making housing for the poor a government priority. It may mean resolving long standing economic disparities.

Not supporting the homeless and working poor is bound to have horrible repercussions. Children born into such circumstances tend to fall into poverty and homelessness later as adults. The problem perpetuates because the system makes it inevitable.  And the system is a reflective of the beliefs, values and compassion of the wealthy.

That’s the moral of this story — the system represents the rich and creates and perpetuates problems with average working people who don’t have the financial capabilities to deal with them.

Real Solutions to Homelessness

As suggested in the affordable housing post, there are affordable housing solutions.  Although caring people work in their communities to alleviate poverty and homelessness, homelessness isn’t a local problem. It must be solved at the national ands state level.

However, in the meantime people need to support local homeless shelters and other services that help the homeless. Across Northern USA and in Canada, homelessness in the winter is a serious matter.

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