Policies enacted under the Reagan administration and continued through successive White Houses in conjunction with Wall Street greed have plunged American families and children onto the rolls of the homeless in alarming numbers. A report released Dec. 13 by the nation’s premier authority on family homelessness shows that a whopping 1.6 million American children, or one in 45, are now out of their homes. That’s a 38 percent increase in the past three years alone.
The National Center on Family Homelessness (NCFH), the only organization of its kind in the nation that represents homeless families and kids, released the grim statistics in its “report card” entitled “America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010.” The report singled out Wall Street and Washington, D.C. greed and corruption as the primary driver of the stark climb.
On Jan. 5, AMERICAN FREE PRESS spoke with Dr. Ellen Bassuk, the president and founder of NCFH. Dr. Bassuk is also an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.
“We set up [NCFH] in 1988 when family homelessness was a new and emerging problem in the U.S.,” said Dr. Bassuk. “At that time only about 1 percent of the overall homeless population were families and kids. Now, the numbers are at around 38 percent of the overall homeless population. . . . [D]espite all our efforts, the numbers keep going up, up, up, up.”
AFP asked Dr. Bassuk if she felt these trends constituted an epidemic.
“Yes it is,” she said. “And what’s very shocking is that if you look at some of the historical archives, if you go back 100 years . . . you didn’t see homeless kids on the street, homeless families in these configurations. You saw them during the Great Depression or severe recessions, but across the century, this is not part of the landscape.”
After Wall Street speculation and Washington complicity forced more and more Americans out of their homes, the system has been unable to handle the onslaught brought about by mass foreclosures.
Dr. Bassuk explained the new American reality: “We’re seeing more dads who are out there with their kids alone, and more two-parent families. And we’re also seeing more families who are living in shelters and going to work from the shelter. If you have a minimum-wage job and work full time, there is nowhere in the country where you can afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent.”
Those hit hardest, explained Dr. Bassuk, are the young children. As many as half, she added, are less than six years old. “A lot of these children are living in cars and abandoned buildings,” she said.
“California, New York, Texas, Florida, Chicago, Illinois and Arizona have the biggest absolute numbers of homeless kids,” explained Dr. Bassuk. “Los Angeles is now viewed as the homeless capital of the U.S. California has approximately 335,000 homeless kids.”
Dr. Bassuk concluded by saying: “We’re an affluent nation, and this is an emerging third world.”