A while back I wrote about The New Homeless, and took a look at why it is we hear so little about them. In 2009, tent city stories were all the rage. In 2010, the most visible tent cities have been broken up and residents dispersed by the town fathers. As the numbers of homeless families increase, the media coverage decreases. A little digging finds a few stories:
In the Las Vegas Sun:
Before the recession, Michelle and her then-boyfriend, John Brower, led a relatively happy life. He worked at a grocery store, she as a waitress and then at the crafts store. She hoped to go back to college.
Like thousands of other residents, the Browers, now married, had lived paycheck to paycheck. They teetered on the brink of homelessness for the better part of a decade. If one of the longtime Las Vegans lost a job, eviction wasn’t far behind.
They wound up living in a tent in a homeless encampment in the desert. Michelle was pregnant.
But getting out of the desert is harder than ever amid the recession, the Browers say. You need to create and print resumes, you need a phone, and you need clean clothes for interviews. Getting all of that lined up takes a lot longer when you have to ride a bus for two hours across town just to shower and the only phone you have is at a friend’s house.
In 2009, an estimated 13,350 homeless people were in Clark County, according to county records. That’s 17 percent over 2007 numbers.
Of those, about 6,640 were living on the streets or in the desert.
The National Alliance to End Homelessness says that’s a drop in the bucket. The group says there are 39,760 Nevadans, mostly in Southern Nevada, couch surfing or in families that are “doubling up” in single-family homes to share expenses. It claims Las Vegas has the fourth highest homelessness rate in the country, behind Detroit, New York City and Los Angeles.
Maybe I’m being naive, but shouldn’t nearly 40,000 homeless folks in the southern part of one state be a big news story?
A recent NPR story looked at the phenomenon of homeless college students:
Antonio Sandoval, head of UCLA’s Community Programs Office, says he doesn’t have the exact number of students experiencing the day-to-day hardship of food and shelter because they often keep it hidden.
“It’s very affluent here, it’s Westwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills,” Sandoval says. “Students who come to UCLA want to fit the norm here, so they’re not going to tell you they’re homeless, or they’re not going to tell you they’re hungry.
Just down the hall from Sandoval’s office is an unmarked door. Inside is a converted utility closet filled with food. There’s a refrigerator stocked with fruit cups, yogurt, juices and milk. Next to the fridge is a pantry.
“It has a lot of soups and main meals you can cook like macaroni and cheese,” explains Abdallah Jadallah, a 22-year-old engineering student.
Jadallah says he got the idea for the food closet after noticing a number of students were going hungry. The food is donated..
As Antonio Sandoval points out – this is at UCLA, which is smack dab in the middle of California affluence. Imagine the stories that aren’t being reported in the other 49 states.
HBO is currently showing a new documentary called Homeless: The Motel Kids of Orange County.
The film takes a look at the lives of families who work hard, but don’t earn enough money to be able to afford housing in one of the wealthiest areas in the nation – and what life is like for children growing up with no fixed address.