Current Policy Overlooks the New Homeless


San Francisco: A Chevron employee is forced to move his family of four into their Mitsubishi Gallant after being laid off…

Atlanta: Jeniece Richards moved from Michigan to Atlanta a year ago, but despite her best efforts, and two college degrees, remains homeless. She is living in temporary housing with her two children and younger brother…

Denver: As Carrie Hinkle’s hours dwindled, she was forced to choose between paying rent or buying food for her daughter. The two are now working with local agencies towards permanent housing, again…

These stories, plucked from the headlines of the past months are more than the typical holiday coverage. They show faces of the newly homeless, growing as the economy crumbles and opportunities fade.

Facing layoffs and deep cuts in working hours, many in fragile circumstances could no longer afford their mortgage. More commonly, they were renting from a landlord who foreclosed on their residence. Healthy, hardworking and addiction-free, the new homeless are closer in demeanor and behavior to our neighbors than the overly-typified street drunk.

Homeless resource programs across the country have been reporting record requests for assistance. A recent report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that, of 21 cities surveyed, 20 reported an increase in requests for food, with 59 percent coming from families. Nationwide, increased food stamps claims – a clear indicator of rising poverty – reached a record 31.6 million in September, up more than four million in a year according to the New York Times.

California, which has had a homeless problem for decades, has become the epicenter for the newly homeless. The state’s unemployment rate rose to 8.4 percent in November from 5.4 percent in 2007, making it the third highest in the nation. Compounding the homeless problem is the state’s high foreclosure rates (third in the country, according to RealtyTrac data). Homeless programs from San Francisco to San Diego are reporting record numbers, mostly from newly homeless residents impacted by the housing crises or falling economy.

Sadly this surge in homelessness comes just after a period when the problem was finally getting under control. One study by the Interagency Council on Homelessness found a 12 percent decrease in overall homelessness when comparing 2005 to 2007 data. That same time period also reveals a staggering 30 percent decrease in chronic homelessness (defined as being homeless for either over a year or for multiple stints).

In 2000, the National Alliance to End Homelessness crafted their landmark Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness. With successful bipartisan funding, 355 Ten Year Plans have been put into action nationwide.

Such plans, and a strong economy, accelerated the recent gains in the fight against homelessness. But the surge in newly homeless and shrinking budgets now threatens to reverse the progress.

New York City’s municipal shelter systems have seen record-setting increases over the past three months, according to the City’s Department of Homeless Services, but deep cuts loom ahead. Already, the city’s current budget includes a 3 million dollar decrease in outreach funding.

Denver plans to slash nearly a fourth of its funding for homeless initiatives at a time when the city reports a 38-percent increase in homelessness over the past year (Denver Post).

This situation will get much worse. A 20 percent increase of urban homelessness has been projected by the Interagency Council on Homelessness for 2009. Escalating homelessness and looming funding cuts create conditions for a renewed homeless crisis.

In the past debate has focused on the mentally ill and substance abusers, but the new homeless represent different phenomena. President-elect Obama has the responsibility to increase assistance to the degree that reflects the expanding problem. Washington seems all too willing to prop up the corporate players of the American economy, but let us not forget about the hardest hit by these times. Swift action must be taken to assure that the problem of the new homeless becomes no more than a historical footnote – to assure that we as Americans can look back with pride knowing that even during our hardest hour, all were cared for.

Ilie Mitaru is the founder and director of WebRoots Campaigns, based in Portland, OR, the company offers web and New Media strategy solutions to non-profits, political campaigns and market-driven clients.

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reverse mortgage information

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some ideas to help homeless people

Many years ago, Tom Brokaw on Home Street Home discussed homeless people. The program had a very significant impact on me. If you have the ability to watch the program, I hope you will. You may see the world differently. I hope a new version of the program dealing with the homeless situation in our country will be made.

Banks may want to turn many foreclosed homes into apartments for disabled Veterans. Banks may want to turn many foreclosed homes into apartments for other Veterans. Many Veterans who are homeless are homeless because of what happened to them in War. We need to care a lot more about the mental health care of our Veterans and soldiers.

Banks may want to turn many foreclosed homes into low income apartments and middle income apartments. This may increase the revenues of banks as well as help local governments obtain more property taxes. People who live in homes near foreclosed homes may not have to worry as much about declines in the values of their homes.

Local governments and state governments should make it easier for businesses to build low income apartments and middle income apartments. Many governments have made it very hard for young workers to afford apartments they are able to rent.

Local governments and state governments need to consider reducing the numbers of apartments that are rent controlled. Rent control may discourage the building of apartments. The fewer apartments built the more likely there will be homeless people.

The federal government and state governments need to consider tearing down many public housing projects and replacing them with low income housing and middle income housing that have reading rooms, small schools, computer centers, convenience stores, job training centers, daycare, and other things. If governments want to break the cycle of poverty, they need to encourage education and job skills in public housing and other places a lot better.

The federal government, state governments, and local governments need to make it easier for people to get to jobs and from jobs via buses. The better able people are to get to jobs and from jobs the less money that governments may have to spend on food stamps and Medicaid. If families do not have to spend as much money on cars, they may be better able to afford apartments and save for down payments on fixed rate mortgages.

The federal government and State Legislatures may want to loan money to manufacturing companies that make products in our country. Some of the companies could be foreign owned. Some of the companies could be small companies. This may increase our economic growth and help us pay off our national debt. Companies that make products in our country may cause less air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution on our planet than companies that make products in China.

The federal government should stop taxing interest from savings accounts, dividends, capital gains, and estates. Wealthy people and others may be more willing to contribute money to homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food pantries. People will have an easier time saving for down payments on fixed rate mortgages. Many more businesses may be willing to build apartments and homes. Individuals and businesses will have more money to spend. Individuals and businesses will have much more incentive to invest in poor urban areas and poor rural areas. Businesses may have an easier time obtaining loans and investments for hiring workers, training workers, research and development, and plant and equipment. Many businesses may be better able to increase the wages of some of their employees. Savings and investments are how jobs and economic growth take place over time. Are the results immediate? No has "Are we rich if we don't feed the poor?" by David R. Francis has "City offers options for jobless teens" by Joel Dresang and Joe Taschler. It discusses the unemployment rate for teenagers.

The federal government and state governments should reduce the minimum wage over time and eventually eliminate it. If the minimum wage increases, expect the recession to get a lot worse. If the minimum wage increases, expect teenagers and former prisoners to have a lot harder time finding jobs and obtaining skills. If the minimum wage increases, many people will lose their jobs, many people will work fewer hours, many salaried workers will work more hours for the same pay, and prices are likely to increase. If salaried workers have to work more hours for the same pay, they may have to pay people more money to watch their children. How does making it harder for teenagers to obtain jobs that help support their families and obtain work experiences that many college scholarships appreciate benefit them? If the minimum wage is reduced, homeless people may be better able to obtain jobs and skills. If the minimum wage is reduced, businesses may be more willing to hire people in poor urban areas and poor rural areas.

Congress should have learned from the Savings and Loans Crisis and regulated properly. Congress should have required down payments on homes and fixed rate mortgages. Allowing mortgage backed securities to be sold based on no money down mortgages was nuts. The sooner Congress requires down payments on homes and fixed rate mortgages the better.

My dad's mom got me interested in Social Security, Medicare, other safety nets, and War movies.

I graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 1992 with a BA Degree in Political Science and a minor in Economics.

I ran for United States Senate in 2002.

My website is


Ken Stremsky