Homeless For The Holidays – Part VII

| Educate!

Homeless couple in Baltimore. Photo by John Zangas

The stories of homelessness told in this series are but a few of thousands unfolding every day in the Nation’s Capital. These photos depict people who told their personal struggles but there were many more who could not or would not tell their story. There are thousands more in the Nation’s Capital whose stories won’t be told. 

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 9.33.55 PMThey are extraordinary people who went to school, learned skills, and held jobs. Some owned homes, others paid rent, some are fathers and mothers, others are children.
 
Statistics show homelessness growing in the Nation’s Capital
 
A report by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Homeless Services Committee counted nearly 12,000 homeless in Washington, DC and counties surrounding it, with 7,700 homeless in DC proper. “[T]he greatest barrier to ending homelessness in our communities is the lack of fixed, affordable permanent housing opportunities for the lowest income households,” according to the report. The report shows a 13% increase in Washington, D.C. homelessness since 2013.

 

Homelessness is a nation-wide epidemic

 

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 9.34.05 PMThere were 610,000 experiencing homelessness across the U.S. in 2013. Indications are this number will increase in 2014 based on New York City and Washington, D.C. trends.

 
Further, nearly 50 million are living below the poverty line and five million are kept just above poverty by government assistance with food stamps.
 
Nowhere is the problem more acute in the U.S. than in New York City, where there are over 80,000 homeless children.
 
Many who are not homeless call themselves the “lower middle class” although they work and have places to live. They live paycheck to paycheck and with one setback could lose their homes. 
 
A multitude of factors contribute to homelessness. The lack of affordable housing is cited as a major factor but  underlying it are other issues. Low-wage and inflationary costs of food, healthcare and housing exploit the working class; income inequality-increasing concentration of vast wealth of billionaires; failures of local and state governments to effectively help homeless find housing–are all contributing factors–the homeless are not going away anytime soon.
 

Japan: Model for Helping Homeless

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Tokyo, the most populous city in the world with 13.4 million, has less than 2000 homeless, according to a Japanese government reportreleased in Oct 2014. Across Japan there are a total of 7500 homeless.
 
The Tokyo local government is proactive in combating homelessness with a social safety net. Japan also has low income inequality compared to the U.S.
Japan also guarantees its citizens a minimum standard of living under its constitution.
 
The Homeless Reflect Who We Are
 
The homeless scrape by with meager means, sustained by Samaritans reaching back to help them. Sometimes you’ll pass through a park on your way to work–and maybe you’ll notice they were there. Maybe you’ll see a discarded blanket or styrofoam food cup by the park benches.
 
They are the ones abandoned by our society. They have hopes and dreams, families and loves, needs and fears, and…they are a little bit like you and me: they are us.