Saturday, March 10, 2012

1 in 200 Americans were in a Homeless Shelter

What it's like to sleep in a homeless shelter: "My biggest concern about having to spend a night in a homeless shelter was the bedbugs. I've learned that some shelters keep the feet of the bunk beds in soup cans, which are half filled with diatomaceous earth -- which is dirt from a sedimentary rock made up of fossilized algae. If the bedbugs make their way to the mattress through the soil, it scratches their shells and kills them."

In Atlantic City on the boardwalk there is a new $2.4 billion casino called the Revel. The CEO of the casino says he wants the nearby Rescue Mission gone. Republican Governor Chris Christie's "zero-tolerance" policy for the homeless in Atlantic City may help make that happen. (Read: The Republican's War on the Poor)

Christie's predecessor, the former Democratic Governor of New Jersey, is just the opposite. Richard Codey disguised himself as a homeless man to expose shortcomings in homeless shelters. "To find a place to take you if you're homeless was impossible essentially," he told the news source, "unless you're on some government entitlement program."

In a TV interview on CNN Richard Codey said that if someone is male or mentally ill, they have the most difficult time getting in to a homeless shelter.

HUD's last report finds that 643,000 persons were homeless on a given night in 2009 while roughly 1.56 million people, or one in every 200 Americans, spent at least one night in a shelter during 2009; and the number of homeless families have increased for the second straight year.

The average length of stay in emergency shelter was 69 days for single men, 51 days for single women, and 70 days for families.

In a recent approximation USA Today estimated 1.6 million people unduplicated persons used transitional housing or emergency shelters. Another approximation is from a study done by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty which states that approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them children, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year.

How many unemployed Americans are now on the verge of needing a homeless shelter? In 2012 almost 30 million are either under-employed or unemployed. Even if the unemployment rate stays the same, many will still  face foreclosures and evictions. (Read: Obama's Welfare State)

And almost half of all working Americans earn less than $27,000 a year - - when the poverty line for a family of four is $22,314. According to the USDA, in 2010, about 43% of households on food stamps had gross incomes at 50 percent or less of the poverty line. A full 85% had gross incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line -- that's only $10,830 a year for a single person such as myself. The remaining 15% were often elderly beneficiaries on fixed incomes such as Social Security.

Barbara Poppe is the director of U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. One day she spotted a man, huddled in the frigid doorway of a bank, near the automatic teller machine. He looked old and tired. He said he was resting his feet, waiting for the nightclubs to close so he could go out and shake his cup and beg for change. He said he was on a list for housing.

“I hope you get off the streets real soon,” she told him before she left him.

Back out on the street Barbara remembered a McDonald’s gift card that she had in her coat pocket. She paused in the cold, then turned around and went back and gave the card to man. He thanked her and tucked it into his ragged gray blanket.

If he's lucky, he might find an available bed tomorrow night. He'll worry about the bedbugs later.

My Related Posts


  1. January 13, 2015 -- Hygiene and heartache: Homeless women’s daily struggle to keep clean

  2. My First Night Homeless

  3. UPDATE: Dec. 27, 2015

    For years, many homeless people have spent the night in airports between when the last evening flight lands and the first morning flight departs. But in a number of cities across the country, officials are now cracking down on that unspoken arrangement. As the number of homeless people has climbed in major metropolitan areas like Washington DC and New York City, there’s anecdotal evidence that the ranks of people sleeping in airports has similarly grown. One individual, according to Bloomberg, has even lived in LaGuardia for 20 years.

    (* MY NOTE: If someone bought an open round-trip ticket to Anywhere, USA -- could they still be kicked out of an airport?)