Joblessness pushed another 2.6 million people into poverty last year as 15.1 percent of Americans counted as poor -- the highest rate since 1993, according to 2010 statistics released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
"I never thought it was going to be this bad," said Celina Lopez, a single mother of two young children who has moved in with her grandmother in El Sobrante. "My situation is pretty scary, in terms of housing, kids and being able to provide for them. I didn't think it would be this hard to find a job."
The poverty rate rose from 14.3 in 2009, and it increased most dramatically for children and the youngest working-age adults -- those between 18 and 24 years old.
Tent City made the news recently and while community leader Steven Brigham says the media attention brought in greater donations, it also brought unwanted attention from the local politicians.
After battling with the city for years to have access to the public land here, Brigham found a New Jersey lawyer to represent his case pro bono.
The attorney, Jeff Wild, argued that the homeless population are part of the public and should therefore have access to public lands. Rather than take the case to court, Lakewood City Council settled, and Brigham signed an agreement to put up no more shelters and allow no more than 70 people to stay.
But last winter the community put up three wooden structures to house everyone and keep them warm.
"We didn't lose anybody last year," Brigham says, "and nobody got sick."
This year could be different. After City Council members saw the shelters on TV, they sent demolition crews in. The walls were torn down around whatever was inside, and meager furnishings were left to the elements.
This year, the tent city's residents will have to put wood-stoves in tents and plastic shanties, increasing fire risk. Brigham says the town is making it impossible to survive there, hoping to get the homeless out, and he's concerned it will end up killing people this year.
Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/lakewood-new-jersey-homeless-tent-city-2011-9#outside-the-town-of-lakewood-new-jersey-across-from-this-intersection-1#ixzz1XsXLBaII
Denise had lived on my parking lot
for close to a year. Once, her mother
came all the way from Mississippi to
stay there a while. Can you believe
that? Can you imagine what her life
must have been, that sleeping in
a parking lot a thousand miles from
home could be an improvement? The
mother soon moved on; the daughter
stayed. She unfailingly wished me good
morning; we joked together; many
times I felt happy to be her neighbor.
One cold winter afternoon when I had
cooked some Chinese food, I took half
of it out to my parking lot to give to
Denise. She was lying on her side in her
sleeping bag, and her teeth were chattering.
“You mean, you cooked this?”
she said. “Thank you, honey.”
When they evicted Denise, she
screamed in rage and grief. A day later,
the neat tarp houses my friends had
made in their corner of the lot had all
been transformed into garbage. I paid
somebody fifty dollars to haul it away.
Would you like to know what Denise’s
house used to look like? I quote
from her police citation: tent constructed
on pallets, mattress,
sleeping bag, blankets, milk crate,
chair. Under violations the officer
wrote: unlawful camping, refused
shelter, ignored prior warnings.
He also checked: booking required.
I wondered why the officials of my
city were so stupid and cruel, not to
mention wasteful. How much public
money did they spend moving these
people from bad to worse? How many
schools, parks, clinics, and buses got
starved in proportion; how many violent
crimes went unsolved? I also wondered
what “private property” meant—
the right to go on paying property
taxes, I suppose. Then I went inside my
building and sat down because
I felt like crying.
This is the reality for more and more Americans, millions upon millions of whom are being pushed into poverty or deeper into poverty every year of this ongoing Endless Recession.
Every time another austerity measure is enacted, another few hundred thousand or few million are thrown off the cliff, to face whatever it is Those People face Down Below (poor devils.)
Keening and rending garments over it will not stop what has been going on for years now.
Change will only come when we make it come.