Homeless in America


On any given night, 671,859 people are homeless in America.  More than 40,000 of us catch what zzz’s we can within LAs “Skid Row,” a 50-square foot block which is rapidly gaining prominence as ‘ground zero’ for homelessness in the U.S.

People experience homelessness for a host of reasons: unforeseen financial emergencies, addiction and mental illness, and – often – financial/economic distress.

Shannon Moriarty, who writes regularly in her change.org series >End Homelessness, urges all of us to recognize and avoid the three euphemisms recently being used to identify the crisis: economic refugees, structurally challenged, and transient. The word ‘homeless,’ she writes, conveys specific images which in turn give rise to judgments and stereotypes.

“But the word “homeless” should mean nothing more than a person’s state of being at a moment in time,” she says. “It should not imply anything about a person’s character, work ethic, appearance, health, or intellect.  

“In other words, “homeless” means just that – not having a home.”

Early today Mark Horvarth, on a road trip across the US for InvisiblePeopleTV, interviews Steve Berg, Vice President of the National Coalition of the Homeless.

Haight Ashbury Homeless. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan.

According to new figures compiled by the Coalition, California ranks second only to Florida in the number of attacks on homeless individuals: 22 homeless people were attacked in California in 2008, including 10 deaths. California Second in the Nation in Attacks on Homeless Aug. 21, 2009.  Due to increased violent attacks against the nation’s homeless population, the  Coalition is taking the lead in a countrywide campaign to include homeless in groups protected by federal hate crime legislation. After Maryland earlier this year expanded its hate crime laws to include attacks on the homeless, five other states are considering following the lead of Maryland, where earlier this year hate crime laws were amended to include attacks against homeless individuals and groups.

In July, nearly 86,000 YouTube videos portrayed situations which were degrading homeless people. The media is reporting that there is an increase in online videos that record beatings and violence against homeless people.

Ending Homeless writer Moriarty discusses why homeless are victims of“Bum Fight” videos:

“Bum fights” are videos of homeless people being beaten or forced into humiliating acts. Usually, those filming (and instigating the antics) use money or alcohol to lure homeless people into participating in these schemes, often with no knowledge that they will be posted on the web.”

A federal bill addressing violence against the homeless was introduced in Congress just prior to summer recess.

More from LA: Visit Holes in Safety Net Getting Bigger


Chicago Union Station. 2009. Photo by Neal Rauhauser.

Five homeless Chicago teenagers were awarded $2,000 college scholarships by the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) for succeeding in school despite facing homelessness. Three of the students lived alone, without family, while finishing school.  


Scottsale, AZ. First Homeless Shelter

Family Promise recently moved its offices to Scottsdale after purchasing a small apartment complex near Scottsdale and McDowell roads. The property at 7221 E. Belleview St. serves as the Family Promise offices, and includes a family center as well as a place to help parents in the program look for jobs, work on resumes and list an address for their job search.

Within 60 to 90 days, about 70 percent of the families have found better housing and a job, Love said.

Homeless interventions traditionally involve a van picking up families from participating churches at 4:30 am and returning them in time for dinner by 5pm. Many programs are available for one to three months. Now, Family Promise’s transitional housing is available for six to nine months, with the hope that the additional time and support will assist more families in becoming self-sufficient.  

Photo by Neal Rauhauser


Be the changer or the changed

Boston Street Retreat: Episode One

“I spent the last three days and two nights sleeping out on the streets in Boston with no money, food, water, or anything other than the clothes on my back, a towel, a sweatshirt, my camera, and a street pack.

“It was the most powerful experience I have ever had; welcoming, frightening, relaxing, sketchy, beautiful, and inspirational.

I will be writing several blogs about the people I met the experience I had throughout the week so check back soon.”  

From the Streets of San Francisco

Haight Homeless. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan.

Starting with 2003 when the 1993 SF Chronicle series Shame of the City,reporters and photographers began spotlighting the growing crisis of homelessness in the city. Even with Mayor Gavin Newsom’s Project Homeless Connect, the homeless crisis in this city escalates … and the SFGate has re-activated the ’03 series with new stories.

Homeless#2. 2009. Photo by Lizzy Phelan

The federal government has granted San Francisco nearly $9 million of the $1.5 billion Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HRRP)in federal stimulus funds aimed at combating homelessness through a program designed to intervene at the community level with preventive and re-housing measures. Listen to NPR: Some Stimulus Money Preventing Homelessness, July 2009

San Francisco Homeless 3.2009 Photo by Lizzy Phelan

Nine years ago, the National Alliance to End Homelessness stated: “As a nation, we do a lot to address homelessness-build shelters, distribute food and blankets and the like. What we don’t do is prevent homelessness or help people exit homelessness.” And though the funds from HPRP are not sufficient, the organization is hopeful in the about the change in direction towards prevention with rental assistance and housing search.

Live from New York

The New York City Rescue Alliance, a faith-based partnership of ministries and churches “focused on offering every man or woman living on the streets of New York an alternative to their plight” recently produced the powerful video Don’t Walk By, a call out to New Yorkers to reach out to more than 3000 city homeless city residents and who is my neighbor.  

“People sometimes ask, will the stimulus money we receive be enough to help us through this unprecedented difficult period of time? And, you know, I don’t know the answer to that. But what I do know is it would give us a fighting chance” ROB HESS (Department of Homeless Services, New York City) who plans to utilize most of the plans to use most of the $74 million in stimulus money his agency will receive to improve community centers as they deal with a growing number of families in need of assistance.

Washington, D.C.

Washington, DC Homeless. Photo by Neal Rauhauser

LA Homeless Blog: Can a new bill end homelessness for veterans?

Homeless Media

The Soloist

“Then picture your life unraveling at lightening speed, your confidence eroding, your grasp on reality slipping away. One day you’re at the Juilliard School of Music with a promising future and then, in just a few years, you’re homeless, living on the sidewalks of Los Angeles, serenading passers-by with rambling attempts at classical music.” from What ‘The Soloist’ Tells Us about Homelessness and Mental Illness

Take Action

1. 10 actions

2. Take the Pledge never to judge a homeless person link

3. Give Kids a Shot  Play word games and for each answer you get correct, the organization donate funds to purchase .01ml of vaccine for the GAVI Alliance

4. Add your archives, report in from your community, volunteer for a diary, or join our project.

Archiving Homelessness

One Brave Kossack: Medically Homeless Archive

Homelessness Poverty Blogs

InvisiblePeople TVInvisible People.TV Group Pool

“BrokenRoots is a group for bloggers/advocates interested in issues about and facing homeless people. Our goal is to a create a network of regional ‘stringers’ who can dispatch news and photos from communities across the country to report on the impacts of the economic crisis on the homeless situation. We welcome first person stories, analysis, and reporting. The DK BrokenRoots project team will discuss, create and promote Daily Kos diaries on these issues, connect bloggers; create projects, and share related news and resources.”



Skip to comment form

  1. so much wealth, and some people can only think of themselves.

    Thanks for sharing this. Iti struly a nightmare for many, not a dream

  2. I remember first seeing increasing numbers of homeless once Reagan became president, not a coincidence, a direct cause.

  3. …(homeless) phases (I’ve had 3), I lived for 4 years as part of a peace vigil, encampment at the Concord Naval Weapons Station outside Concord, CA.  

    I was lucky, at the time I became houseless, S. Brian Willson, Nam vet and peace activist, had formed “Nuremberg Actions” to protest the U.S. government’s agressive, brutal attacks on and attempts to control Central America.  

    Since then, I’ve been unable to understand why someone doesn’t organize the homeless into the potent political force they could be.  And living (camping out) in a community outside a military facility or other facility which represents the powers that have caused these problems, is both much more productive, and far, far less dangerous than living in the streets in some huge city.  I felt safe from rape and murder and other abuses except those administered by governmental authorities.

    I am not able to organize any of this; I can only make suggestions.  I am 76 and in poor health from the lung disease which was the original cause of my houselessness back in the mid-1980s.  

    I’m sure many rules in regard to this freedom of speech and to assemble have changed in the intervening 20 years, but I can only suggest this as something which might help individuals and address the underlying, causative injustices in our society.  And I hope someone will look into it and try to organize these many good folks, so many of whom are vets.

    I offer this for whatever it is worth.  Thank you.

Comments have been disabled.