Slipping into America’s Crack: Home is a hotel without a lawyer

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

I have been feeling lately that the entire country has been hit by a storm,  that people are drowning or are standing on their roofs waving their arms, but that the most other people are ignoring them, their eyes set on some different horizon, looking for golden pots beneath rainbows.

The President and his family this week have been sampling the fine wines of Northern Italy with the worthless G-8, visiting an earthquake stricken town there. He has pontificated with the evil Santa that is the Pope and now having a delightful visit, no doubt, in Ghana.

The mainstream media has been preoccupied with sex, politics and celebrity death.  Huge numbers of television watching Americans have been fueling those Networks’ ad revenue, distracted by these baubles of the macabre.  The blogosphere seems more fragmented than ever, either being enraptured with its own meta,  or having its sights set on foreign revolutions  and  wargames. Quite a number too have been focused on the macroeconomy, noting the incredible hypocrisy and corruption of the big houses on Wall Street.  There are those too who are completely focused on healthcare legislation, which does get closer to the core issue. That issue is that people are hurting badly in this country and are slipping through its cracks.

My own attention has been scattered across that spectrum too, but my eyes and heart always come into focus on the stories of those who aren’t making it; those who are not being caught by our threadbare safety nets.  I’m a bleedingheart through and through and feel compelled to write about these stories, hoping somehow that if enough people pay attention something might somehow get better. Yeah, I’m an idealist too, though sadly becoming more cynical.

McClatchy had a story up yesterday about many  people who are losing their homes to foreclosure are moving their families into hotels, because the homeless shelters are getting too full. In Massachusetts this has become policy, because the State is been mandated to provide shelter.

Here’s the story,

Americans swap homes for hotels as recession bites

In Massachusetts, a record number of families are being put up in motels due to high unemployment and the rising number of homes going into foreclosure, costing taxpayers $2 million per month but providing a lifeline for desperate families.

“I feel like this has saved my life,” said Tarya Seagraves-Quee, a 37-year-old former nurse.

Seagraves-Quee has lived in a cramped one-bedroom suite in a hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with three of her four children for nearly two months. “I’m managing the best way possible. I’ve learned to make things in the microwave oven.”

In Massachusetts, homeless shelters are at capacity. State law requires temporary accommodation for those without shelter, leading authorities to place 830 families, including 1,125 children, in 39 motels — an unprecedented number.

I doubt many other States are paying for hotel rooms, however. For those who opt for hotels they are spending a proportionately much higher percentage of their income on shelter and food costs are higher too, unless there are kitchenettes available.  The article mentions that cities like Phoenix are buying up old cheap motels and converting them into shelters to provide for those in need.

Building new shelters or converting empty apartment buildings might be a really good use of stimulus money, it seems to me. It seems like that might be a much better use of taxpayer money than say, giving more bonuses to the failed and fantastically fucked CEOs of AIG.

Hidden Homeless

These hotel dwellers are called the hidden homeless of this country. They are hidden because they aren’t registered with the government. One generally  has to sign up and stay at a shelter to be seen, to be counted.

Hotels become homes for families struggling to survive

Traditionally, the focus of social-service programs and government dollars aimed at helping the homeless has been on people living on the streets and in shelters. But there always has been a sizable, overlooked population of people on the brink, said Tim Joyce, executive director of CHIP.

Motel dwellers and others staying with relatives and friends sometimes are referred to as the hidden homeless. They generally don’t receive the assistance that the homeless do in finding transitional or subsidized housing.

“They’re not in the system,” Joyce said. “To get in the system, you generally have to land at a shelter.”

Schools, however, know where the hidden homeless are because federal law requires that they provide children with transportation.

Legal Aid Overwhelmed

Another consequence of this recession, the job losses, the foreclosures, this perfect storm of hell, is that people can’t afford legal assistance to deal with all their financial nightmares, and even legitimate claims against fraudsters and assholes.  The legal aid offices are swamped and are turning people, a lot of people, away.

Growing numbers of poor people swamp legal aid offices

After years of funding shortfalls, legal aid societies across the country are being overwhelmed by growing numbers of poor and unemployed Americans who face eviction, foreclosure, bankruptcy and other legal problems tied to the recession.

The crush of new clients comes as the cash-strapped agencies cut staff and services.

The nonprofit Legal Services Corp., which funds more than 900 legal-aid offices nationwide, says that the number of people who qualify for assistance has jumped by about 11 million since 2007, because of the recession. Roughly 51 million people are now eligible for assistance – individuals and families who earn less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level, now set at $27,564 a year for a family of four.

The federal government budgeted an 11 percent increase in funding for legal aid this year. That increase, however, is more than offset by the growing demand for services and a recession-driven decline in state funding, charitable gifts and grants, which together traditionally make up half of legal service funding.

That means that legal-aid programs will turn away roughly 1 million valid cases this year, advocates say, about half the requests for assistance they’ll receive.

Hey, this might be another really good use of additional stimulus money, increasing the funding for legal aid programs, to help these people get some justice. Fuck Wall Street and the limos in drove us into the ground with.

Meanwhile,  today in Sacramento a group of people who have only a tent for their shelter at this point had to deal with the Police Shutting Down a New Tent City

Around a hundred people have lived there since the Winter Shelter at Cal Expo closed July 1st.  That includes some of the homeless who camped at the big Tent City along the American River earlier this year.  But many say they don’t know where they’ll go.

Tent City Version 2.0 is smaller – in both size and population.  The first one sprawled for blocks along the river.  This one is nestled on a narrow plot of grass and dirt between a Volunteers of America Homeless Shelter and a gospel mission.  VOA counted about 50 tents and 100 people.  By the time I got there Thursday, some had already left – and others were starting to pack.

This is the second Tent City for Lloyd Chaffins – and he says it’s his last.  Chaffins says he just wants to be left alone.

Chaffins: “I don’t wanna have to get up and move every other day.  Cause I got a lot of stuff to pack up every day if I do that.  So I’d just as soon find a spot that’s covered with trees and camp there.”

Something has got to give, here. It is unconscionable that all this is taking place while the uber-rich and their politicians skate away in search of ever increasing their fortunes.   I hope when they find those fortunes  that instead of pots of gold they find instead some other glowing metallic element.

For more info on Legal Services, see this July 2009 report from the Center for American Progress, And Justice for All: Prioritizing Free Legal Assistance During the Great Recession

Here is a list of recommendations from this report:

• Congress should pass H.R. 1728 and S. 718, which are pieces of legislation designed to expand the resources available to legal aid organizations.

• States must avoid making cuts to legal aid programs while seeking creative solutions that actually increase funding for these vital services.

• The private bar should continue to expand current efforts that are leading to increased amounts of pro bono service.


Skip to comment form

  1. I have run out of patience again.  

  2. Why do I always post in the middle of someone else’s meta? I’m cursed.

    Oh well, at least I got this written down and I hope a couple will set an eyeball on it.  

  3. they were doing better than say Tampa Fl, where the cops were slashing tents with razors.

  4. afford a lawyer.

    That’s where the foreclosed, and the low end of the closed business owners are too — you can’t even go bankrupt ’cause you can’t afford it.  

    (that’s where I’m at myself)  

  5. of jobs, this could be just the tip of the iceberg.  

  6. Economics are not just statistics – they are living,breathing human beings trying their very best to survive.

    Our government has poured trillions into the banking system and done what for the most vulnerable in our society?

    I read about AIG officers receiving bonuses – then stories like this and it makes me really angry, sad and ashamed.

    Thank you again … this could be anyone of us.

    We should have compassion – and mandate that our government react, as well.

    • robodd on July 11, 2009 at 4:39 am

    A lot of people don’t have much food on their table, But they got a lot of forks ‘n’ knives, And they gotta cut somethin’.

  7. … out of the weather, and we have big and medium “box” stores lying vacant all over the country.

    And even if we don’t have a lot of money in local town and city budgets, we sure as hell have a lot of things that need doing.

    Why not organize indoor tent cities, with individual plots on the floor of an abandoned box retailer, separated by partitions, paid for by a modest cash fee for those with jobs/income and with local warrants for those able to make themselves useful helping out in the town/city?

  8. ‘Why  can’t we use the empty hotels to house homeless?’

    My neighborhood used to be typical middle class, now it’s low income, but we have this (used to be beautiful)hotel. The Bellemont property is huge with the main building and several smaller buildings taking up almost a block. Fema used it during Gustav. During Katrina they were talking about fixing it up for the displaced people of Nola, but that never happened. The Great Hall is still used for some events.

    It would be,IMO, a good place to live, better than a shelter or in a van by the river.  There is a grocery store across the street Social Services and State Work Force not too far away. It would make perfect sense! My guess that is exactly why it’s not done,cause it makes sense.  

    • Inky99 on July 11, 2009 at 6:40 am

    No one will rent to you if your credit rating is bad, and chances are if you’ve lost your job, your credit rating is gonna be bad.   God knows mine is now.   So if I get kicked out of here for any reason, there’s no way I can rent a place, because it’s always based on a credit score.   Nobody will rent to you if your credit score is below a certain point.

    Want to get re-trained for a better job?   You can’t get a student loan, either, unless your credit score if 740 or higher.

    We’re all pretty much fucked, and fucked hard, under the current “rules” of the game.

Comments have been disabled.