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Imagine a typical day in your life: You wake up, throw back the covers and get out of bed. You donít put on a robe because the heat is on and itís warm in your room. After freshening up in the bathroom, you go to your closet to choose an outfit to wear. You grab a quick breakfast. Then your best friend gives you a lift to school. At the end of the day, your mother picks you up to go shopping. Later, after dinner, you do your homework, talk on the phone and watch TV with your brother and sister. Most people would agree that a day like this is fairly ordinary. Shelter, clothes, food, education, family these are things you usually take for granted. Whatís more, these are things that everyone deserves. Unfortunately, These things do not belong to everyone.
Far too many people in this country have no homes. They own only the clothes they own only the clothes they are wearing. They donít know where their next meal will come from. And they have no family or friends to turn to for help. About 3 million people are homeless in the United States, and the problem is getting worse. Some researchers believe that, by the year 2000, 19 million could be homeless (American Red Cross 1).
Homelessness is not a new problem in our society. In the second half of the 19th century, millions of immigrants poured into this country to find a better home. The immigration occurred around the same time as the abolition of slavery, when thousands of freed African Americans flocked to cities to look for work. At first, many of these people could not find homes or jobs. Since they were starting out with nothing, it took them awhile to get a foothold. Also, they were competing with many others who were just as poor and uneducated as they were.
Large cities had huge ghettos filled with these newcomers. The living conditions were cramped and miserable. But this period was also an era of tremendous expansion for the country. Industrialization was sweeping thorough the cities, and new territories in the west were opening up. The expanding nation was able to put most of its new citizens to work.
During the 1930s, the country faced another challenge: the Great Depression. Again, United States was confronted by widespread homelessness hunger, unemployment and poverty. Charity groups and religious organizations could not help everyone that needed assistance. Most citizens felt it was time for the government to step in to assist those of need ( Kraljic 6).
From the 1930ís to the 1960ís, Social programs were setup to aid the poor and guarantee them food allowances, medical care, minimal income (Hyde 8). Welfare, food stamps, Medicaid health coverage and unemployment insurance all offer aid to those in need. The government supports theses programs largely with tax money paid by the public. When these programs were established, it was hoped that poverty and homelessness would eventually be abolished (Jencks 5).
So what happened?
Some of the programs set up by the government to assist the poor were cut back in the late 1970ís and 1980ís. The federal government spent less on social programs such as job training. In addition, the cost of food and clothing was increasing at the same time, as was the rest. And because of the cutbacks, poor people had less money to spend on these necessities. More and more people were facing poverty (Hyde 10).
At one time, people could support themselves on welfare. But since 1970, the cost of living has tripled, yet government benefits have barely increased at all. It fact, some programs have been reduced or eliminated entirely (Jencks 7). For example, since 1982, the food stamp budget has been reduced by billions of dollars. As a result, a million people who need help in buying groceries are not getting aid. The government also made cuts in its housing programs. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the government spent $33 billion on maintaining low-income housing in 1981. By the end of the decade, that amount would be slashe...
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