Haven't you heard the good news? The economy is finally recovering. The Dollar is up, and unemployment is down. Millennials are finally making enough money to move out of their parent's basement, and the stock market continues to reach record highs. And best of all, our homeless rates are off the charts. We're in the money baby!
Homelessness in Washington, D.C. has increased by 12.9 percent in the past year. In Memphis, Tennessee, nearly half the demand for emergency food assistance in 2013 has gone unmet. The number of requests for urgent food aid in Philadelphia rose by 20 percent. And in Plano, Texas, homeless shelters with limited capacity were forced to turn away 84 percent of those seeking help.
These statistics come from the U.S. Conference of Mayors' 2014 Hunger and Homelessness Survey, a report compiled with the participation of 25 city governments around the country. The annual survey does not offer a representative sample of nationwide trends, but it does provide a narrow glimpse of how those trends affect a handful of large municipalities scattered across various regions.
Overall, 71 percent of participating cities reported an increase in local demand for emergency food assistance between September 2013 and August 2014, and 43 percent of those cities reported an increase in homelessness. Across all cities, homelessness was found to have risen 0.7 percent, and need for food assistance was found to have gone up 7 percent.Wait a minute. Could it be that those other statistics don't really indicate a healthy economy? Is the Dollar's comeback only being caused by a terrible global economy that has nowhere else to put its money? Could it be that the official unemployment numbers are a farce, and the stock market has no real relation to economic health? No, that can't be, can it? What's really going on here?
Low wages were cited as a key reason for increasing food insecurity, while city governments identified a lack of affordable housing as the main challenge when it comes to fighting homelessness. Some 38 percent of those requesting emergency food assistance were employed at the time, and 18 percent of the cities' homeless population had jobs.Now the truth comes out. The economy is improving, in a comical sort of way. There are more jobs, but few of them pay anywhere close to what they used to. And a lot of these new jobs are centered in metropolitan areas, which are experiencing a surge of desperate workers, thus causing the cost of rent to rise at a frightening pace. There are more jobs to be had than there were in 2008, but very few of them can keep up with the cost of living.
At least some of these people are finding work, even if the pay sucks. Unfortunately there are still millions of people who would love to have a job, but still feel left behind from this supposed "economic recovery".
"There are still too many unemployed workers in our cities, and this continues to add to the stress on emergency assistance programs," said U.S. Conference of Mayors CEO Tom Cochran during a Thursday conference call.
Nationwide, poverty and homelessness have declined over the past few years as the United States has straggled out of recession. However, the National Center on Family Homelessness reports that child homelessness is at an all-time high as of 2013.How is that even possible? How could one statistic say that homelessness is declining, while another says that child homelessness is at an all time high? That's because the first stat comes from the government's official numbers, while the second stat comes from a private non-profit organization. Which one do you think is more reliable?
The truth is it doesn't really matter if the economy is "recovering", because what they're calling a recovery is a joke. Even if the dollar and the stock market are going strong, and more people have jobs, there is one very important problem that is not being addressed. That problem is inequality, and it's been getting worse for decades. The economy may be booming for the people at the top, but for the rest of us at the bottom, it might as well be 2008.
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