Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The new face of homelessness

In today's New York Times, there's an article called "Handing Out Money to Stave Off Homelessness." Times reporter Peter S. Goodman writes about the rising number of homeless middle-class Americans resulting from this horrid economy.

"The plight...has little to do with the complex intertwined causes of homelessness of decades past, such as substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence. The current surge stems directly from the recession: Millions have lost their jobs or suffered a sharp drop in earnings. They have drained their savings, losing the ability to pay their rent."

Homelessness has now reached crisis proportions not seen since the Great Depression, according to the article. The severity of the situation has prompted the government to step in with intervention programs to help families gain independence again. Without assistance, many are at risk of slipping permanently into poverty, experts say.

I was struck by this article because I lost my job a year ago and joined some 15 million Americans who are unemployed. My lay off caught me completely by surprise (imagine, letting go of the editor of a magazine). I thought I had job security, but in this economy there's no such thing.

We now live on an income that's been slashed by almost a third (times were much more comfortable on a dual income) and a few unpaid bills nag at us each month. Even though we're feeling the pinch, I'm still thankful: I have a husband who has a job and we are able to pay our mortgage and put food on the table. And life hasn't changed too much for our two children.

I come across stories like the one in today's Times and I'm reminded of the millions of Americans who are on the brink of poverty. The once-breadwinning husband, the single mother, the young children who look forward to school lunch (perhaps their only meal of the day). The talking heads say the economy's getting better. Well, until we see the jobs come back (anyone looking for a magazine editor?), a recovery hasn't become a reality for too many of us.

Read the article here.