The number of people in poverty has increased to a record 46.2 million and the poverty rate of 15.1 percent is the highest on record since 1983. The poverty rate is defined as a single person living on less that $10,890 a year.
The Social Security Administration researchers reported earlier this
month that half
of America’s workers earned less than $26,364 last year (the vast majority
of the 99%).
Both the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Office of Budget and Management (OMB) in their respective economic outlook reports have revised their forecasts to reflect the worsening economic conditions across the country. The expectation is that the country will continue to see poor economic conditions for years to come with, for example, the unemployment rate projected to hover near 9 percent until 2013 and then not reach pre-recession levels until 2016 or 2017.
The continued poor economic conditions likely means high levels of poverty and deep poverty will remain. In fact, the Brookings Institution projects poverty will continue to increase through 2012 and that the poverty rate will stay above 15 percent through 2014. The Brookings’ research predicts poverty will stay above pre-recession levels through 2020.
Deep poverty follows a similar trajectory, so it is predicted that the deep poverty rate will remain at levels not seen since before the current economic downturn.
The Homelessness Research Institute examined previous evidence of the relationship between unemployment and poverty, and the relationship between rates-of-deep-poverty and rates-of-homelessness. Based on this, it projects that increases in the number of people in deep poverty will result in a significant increase in homelessness.
Because of many new "broken windows" or "quality of life"
ordinances springing up all around the country, it makes it very difficult for
the homeless to loiter or to even look indigent in public spaces.
All over the country police have moved in on the tent cities of the homeless, from Seattle to Providence, in raids that often leave the former occupants without even their minimal possessions. What the homeless from all walks of life are now discovering is, that to be homeless in America is to live like a fugitive.
The Homelessness Research Institute projects the overall homeless population could increase by nearly 5 percent in the next three years. The baseline, 1.6 million people, is the number of people who were homeless from October 2009 through September 2010, as documented by The 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress (AHAR).
Based on this, the projected increase in homelessness over the next three years, due to the recession and continued economic downturn, is 5 percent. This would be the largest increase in homelessness since regular reporting on the size of the homeless population began in the 2007
There are other factors that support a concern that this projected 5 percent increase is a conservative estimate. First, it should be noted that homelessness is a lagging indicator, meaning it can take several months or years following a recession before homeless population increases are realized.
Second, this projection does not take into account the deep cuts to state and local government programs, and any future cuts to federal programs, that protect people against homelessness and help them when they are homeless. (The new super-committee will most likely be cutting social programs.)
Finally, the projection does not take into account the rising cost of housing, which is statistically linked to homelessness.
Allowing over a million people to become homeless every year has enormous economic, social, and human costs. The nation can learn from recent successful initiatives, and prevent the economic downturn and increasing poverty from creating a new class of homeless people. There is evidence of increases in homelessness emerging.