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A History of Homelessness in America Homelessness 101.

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1 A History of Homelessness in America Homelessness 101

2 Why is this topic important? Hubert H. Humphrey George Santayana Albert Einstein

3 “It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.” Hubert H. Humphrey (1911- 1978)

4 “The significant problems we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them” Albert Einstein

5 Society Section of Homelessness Causes of homelessness Attitudes toward homelessness Responses to homelessness

6 At your table Introduce yourselves –Name –Agency and what it does with respect to assisting homeless persons –Your role Then, identify what you consider your top three causes of homelessness

7 Underlying Cause of Homelessness Socio-economic & political factors That there is homelessness is a factor of these conditions, who becomes homeless is a result of environmental & constitutional factors. “Down and out in America,” Peter Rossi


9 The most vulnerable become homeless EnvironmentalConstitutional

10 Characteristics of LTH Three things in common –No fixed abode –Poor –Loss of social safety net Difficult start in life (58%) –Institutionalized –Education - special ed, dropped out –Birth to child before age 18 Multiple disabilities History of abuse & neglect –Self report 26% - 38% (Wilder Survey) –97% women with SMI (Goodman, 91) Stressful life events (Munoz, 99)

11 Five distinct periods of homelessness Colonial Period Urbanization Industrialization The Great Depression Contemporary Period

12 Colonial Period Beliefs & Attitudes Puritan culture & work ethic, rugged individualism “Wandering beggars & rogues are a plague to civil society. They should be taken as enemies of this ordinance of God” William Perkins

13 Primary causes of homelessness Agricultural society required skilled and unskilled worker mobility Continuing territorial skirmishes Beginnings of business cycles Immigration

14 Urbanization (1820 – 1850) Homelessness increases sharply

15 1850 50,000 people Chicago 1898 1,500,000 people

16 Attitudes toward the homeless Tread Mill (1822 – 1826)

17 Primary causes of homelessness Railroads and telegraph introduce pervasive societal changes Mills, mines, and dock work offered employment but low job security Bumpy business cycles

18 Response by government Minimalist policy Tramp room – 1853 –25,000 used in six month period in NY Public Outdoor Relief Strict vagrancy laws

19 Civil War and Industrialization (1870 – 1900) Homelessness dips significantly during the Civil War then spikes during subsequent economic depressions

20 Slavery  General Sherman promised “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves. In the end less than 1%, about 3,500, received their allotment.  With very few African Americans able to gain land and assets to give to their children, there is now a home ownership gap where 27% more whites have homes than African Americans (up from 23% in 1940). Sources: Freedmen, The Freed Slaves of the Civil War. Centre on Housing Rights and Eviction (COHRE) and The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP)

21 Institutionalized Racism as a cause of homelessness –The U.S. government has broken land treaties with Native Americans and put them into reservations without sufficient resources and opportunities to find jobs, housing, and a better life. –In Minnesota there is a lack of shelter and housing that is culturally appropriate for Native Americans.

22 Unregulated capitalist economy Changes in –the nature of work –types of jobs Deskilling Demeaning Dangerous – 1913 –25,000 deaths –700,000 injured

23 Face of homeless after the Civil War “The Great American Hobo” The hobo and “true” American ideals verses emerging capitalistic values Hobo’s labeled as “political agitators”

24 Main causes of homelessness Veterans from Civil War Institutionalized racism ~ Unequal access to jobs Two severe economic downturns, unemployment near 40% Immigration Railroad penetration allowed for a subculture of “train hoppers”

25 The Great Depression Black Thursday, October 24, 1929 “Breadline – No One Has Starved” by Reginald Marsh, 1932

26 From tramp to transient Homelessness increases significantly 25% unemployment Families on the move in search of work Migrant workers from drought-ridden Midwestern States

27 Skid Row & Affordable Housing –Veterans –People with physical & mental illness –Chronic inebriates –Displaced persons –Unemployed & casually employed

28 Responses to homelessness FDR’s New Deal –CCC –Federal Transient Service Charities in conflict about nature of homelessness Citizens involved –“Impulsive almsgiving” Transient Home Kitchen Wisconsin, 1933

29 Home Ownership –New Deal programs helped white people become homeowners, but African Americans were considered financial risks and not given loans and federal money to become suburban homeowners. Of the $120 billion of government backed loans to new homeowners between 1934-1962, 98% went to white people. Source: Racial Preferences for Whites: The Houses that Racism Built. Larry Adelman, San Francisco Chronicle, June 29, 2003

30 Causes of Homelessness Severe economic instability Immigration Migration from “Dust Bowl” “Grapes of Wrath” WWII – homelessness decreases

31 Skid row community Camaraderie Story telling Casual labor Lobby of cheap lodging house, 1962

32 Minneapolis skid row demolition In 1958 men aging out –50% over 60 –22% over 70 In 1962 –42% lived in SRO’s at $3.35 per week Successfully housed! Given $5 and free advice at demolition Gateway District

33 Contemporary Period (1980–Present Homelessness no longer limited to skid row Homelessness increases sharply and continues to rise Multiple causes –Deinstitutionalization –Vietnam veterans

34 Wilder Research Turquoise = Count Blue = Estimate

35 Main causes of homelessness 1973: Wages Peak In 1973, the average private, non-supervisory, non-agricultural wage reached an all time high of $9.72. By 1983, adjusting for inflation, the same worker was paid $8.76 per hour. (1) Source: The Alliance Report. March – April, 1989. Volume #1, Issue #1. Minneapolis

36 Source: Western Regional Advocacy Program, 2007.

37 1980-1983: Federal programs for poor people are cut Between 1980 and 1983 alone, $140 billion in domestic spending was cut. HUD, unemployment, disability, food stamps, and Family welfare programs all received cuts. Source: Open House. A news update from St. Stephen’s Human Services. Holiday 2005. Minneapolis.

38 Union Strength Declines In 1981 the Federal Government broke the Air Traffic Controller’s Strike by firing over 11,000 employees, beginning a trend of unions losing leverage to demand fair wages and benefits. Lack of unions and more service sector jobs make people spend more of their income on healthcare, daycare, etc. [i] USA Today. 2004. Fired air-traffic controller still feels the sting decades later.

39 1981-1986: Factories Close From January 1981 to January 1986, “10.8 million workers lost their jobs due to plant closures, abolition of positions or shifts, or slack work”. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics. As cited by Rachel Kamel in The Global Factory. 1990. American Friends Service Committee.

40 The Worker/CEO Pay Gap In 1980, the gap between the highest and average paid worker was 42:1. By 2000, the ratio spiked to 531:1. Source: Chuck Collins & Felice Yeskel, Economic Apartheid in America.

41 Rental Rates and Income Minimum Wage in Minnesota is $7.25/hour which equals $15,080/yr Annual income needed to afford a one bedroom FMR apt: $27,960. A two bedroom: $33,920. 1-Bedroom: $27,960-15,080 = $12,880 unmet need 2-Bedroom $33,920-15,080 = $18,840 unmet need Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

42 Housing should cost no more than 30% of a household’s annual income 1973-1993: 2.2 million low-rent units disappeared from the market 1991-1995: median rental costs rose 21% HUD has stopped building public housing and housing projects are being demolished across US Affordable Housing/Gentrification Source:National Coalition for the Homeless (2008). Why are people homeless? Retrieved October 19th, 2008 from,

43 Per night costs of Homelessness Adult shelter $32 Youth shelter $125 Jail $363 Hospital $2800 Detox $192 Camping $16 (annual car sticker $28) Supportive housing $21

44 Collaboration of agencies Creativity in spectrum of housing options Public will - Educate the public about the systemic causes of homelessness Increase affordable housing stock Lobbying for government legislation In 2012 & beyond

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