Shadowproof

Homelessness: The First — and Most Lagging — Economic Indicator of All

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HUD released a report today that indicates: "About 1.6 million people used a homeless shelter or lived in transitional housing between Oct. 1, 2007, and Sept. 30, 2008 — about the same as the year before. But within that group, the number of families grew 9 percent, from about 473,000 to 517,000.
Officials said they also saw more demand for transitional housing in the suburbs and in rural areas of the country. Residents of suburban and rural communities made up about a third of those in need of housing, up from about 24 percent the year before….officials point out that the count occurred just as the nation’s economic woes were beginning and did not account for soaring unemployment and other economic problems that have kicked in during the subsequent months."

Homeless Americans

When I read this, I thought to myself, “Whoa..wait a moment – this is looking at the picture before the vast majority of people in this country (much less the folks in the Bush Administration) realized that we were in the middle of a huge economic mess. HUD is just issuing this data NOW?”

Yep – HUD is issuing the snapshot on homelessness for a period that starts BEFORE the so-called official federal date of the economic crisis, which is December, 2007. So, whoopdeedoo, NOW we know that even before the date the Feds tag with being the turning point, a) homelessness is a huge problem and b) a larger percentage of people in the homeless pool are made up of families than had been before.

Which means that if one takes the position that families being made homeless is a huge red flag on the bottom dropping out of the economy, then obviously whoever makes the decision when the economy is going into the shitter is NOT looking at the right indicators. Someone is putting the thermometer into the wrong orifice. And someone at HUD was NOT ‘interfacing’ (as the management jargon goes) with people at the VA or FannyMae or local banks or even God Help Us, with an organization like RealtyTRAK, which publishes data, on an every month basis, on most counties in the US, on such arcane and hard to understand items as ‘foreclosures’ and ‘sheriff’s sales’ and so on.

But, there ARE organizations out there that take heavy notice of RealtyTRAK, most of which are in the homeless and social services fields and a group of them did a study late last year which was just released late last month, too.
End Homelessness

This 40 page document outlines, in prose even the most hardened bureaucrat could grasp, the enormity of the current problem with homelessness in this country..a problem which because homelessness is one of the ‘lagging-est’ of lagging indicators will continue to fester, grow, and metastasize even beyond the official (other than Cramer) pronouncement of ‘the end of the economic crisis’. I encourage everyone to read this – it will infuriate the living piss right out of you with facts such as these:

RealtyTrac reported 3,42,038 foreclosure filings — default notices, auction sale notices and bank repossessions — on U.S. properties in April 2009, a 32 percent jump from April 2008 and the highest monthly foreclosure rate since it began issuing its report in 2005.

According to a June 2009 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP)net job losses since the start of the recession total six million (how many of those jobs are lost forever is a discussion for another time).

In a recent empirical study of mortgage foreclosure, nearly half of respondents (49%) indicated that their foreclosure was caused in part by a medical problem. (I think we can all make the assumption that ‘a medical problem’ can be interpreted as meaning “I or another family member suffered a medical emergency of such magnitude that the medical bills overwhelmed the family’s ability to pay, with or without health care insurance and we had to stop making payments.”)

A Fall 2008 survey of 1,716 school districts nationwide was conducted by the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth and First Focus. Nearly all (95.4%) school districts reported increasing numbers of homeless students. In the 2006-2007 school year, only 6% of school districts reporting homeless students received federal support for staff to help.

More than half the agencies responding to the surveys reported that “few or none” of their clients accessed legal help in trying to stay in their homes.

Another organization, the National Center on Family Homelessness (how sad that the problem is so widespread that an organization specifically focused on family homelessness is required), has put out a study on the effect of the homeless experience on children: The Effect of Homelessness On Children

On all measures of quality of life, children suffer long term negative effects from losing the privacy, security and safety of being in their own homes:
Poorer quality of health and wellbeing:
–Are sick four times more often than other children.
They have:
–Four times as many respiratory infections.
–Twice as many ear infections.
–Five times more gastrointestinal problems.
–Four times more likely to have asthma.
–Go hungry at twice the rate of other children.
–Have high rates of obesity due to nutritional deficiencies.
–Have three times the rate of emotional and behavioral problems compared to non-homeless children.

Greater Experiences of Violence
–By age 12, 83% had been exposed to at least one serious violent event.
–Almost 25% have witnessed acts of violence within their families.

Lagging Developmental Milestones and Academic Performance
–Four times more likely to show delayed development.
–Twice as likely to have learning disabilities as non-homeless children.

The current Administration has made some strides in terms of dealing with the housing crisis; however, I think we can all see that with the current situation with regard to the behavior of banks and mortgage companies, more dramatic steps must be taken at every level to keep people in their homes, keep their utilities turned on, create decent paying jobs NOW, and get people the healthcare they need.

A huge undertaking, indeed and one which requires all of us to call, write, email, fax and generally harass, annoy and provide ‘in your face’ messages to our representatives in Congress.

Every day this economy slows down more is a day closer to more people ending up on the curb with their belongings in cardboard boxes, and some of them are going to be our friends, family, neighbors..or perhaps even ourselves. All of us need to become aware of the situations in our own communities, the services available (or not), the resources available (or not) and what roles we can as individuals play in ameliorating the situations. It just might ‘take a village’ to keep people housed.

(photo courtesy of zharth)

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