Within sight of downtown Los Angeles’ towering, silver skyscrapers live thousands of homeless men and women. They spend their days scavenging for food, a drink, a drug fix, and sometimes all three. Many sleep in tents pitched on sidewalks, or in alleyways in an area known as Skid Row. In its heart, on the corner of San Pedro and East Sixth Street, stands The Midnight Mission, offering hope to those who are ready for help.
Halfway through our tour of The Midnight Mission, David – hefty, clean-shaven, dressed in dark slacks, a long-sleeved shirt and a tie – led me into a gymnasium-size room partitioned into eight by ten feet cubicles. Each has a bed, a small desk and a dresser. “This,” David said, “is where I stay.” He was so well spoken that only then did I realize he was not an employee of The Midnight Mission, but one of its 250 live-in clients.
There are many factors contributing to today’s coast-to-coast rise in homelessness. Chief among them is the scarcity of jobs and of affordable housing. In Los Angeles, the smallest studio apartments start at $1,200 or more per month, making housing unaffordable, even for persons working minimum wage, full-time jobs. In addition, many among the street homeless also struggle with mental health issues, alcoholism, and drug addiction. More…
Charles says it was the looks on his children’s faces as they watched their mother beating him that finally moved him to file for divorce.
“We had many fights, Charles says. “Once she took a knife to me, and I wound up with 58 stitches. My kids would ask, ‘Why don’t you defend yourself, Daddy?’ And I told them that a man doesn’t beat a woman.”
Fifteen years ago, when his daughter was two, and his son just an infant, Charles lost his eyesight for two days. Though he did not kno it, his vision loss signaled Type 2 diabetes.
With no health insurance, Charles did not see a doctor. One month later, things got worse. Charles remembers, “I was working 13 hours a day pouring concrete. We’d lost twins at birth and I was worried about the new baby. A month later I went into a diabetic coma for eight days. It stripped me of my energy. I’ve never been the same man.” More…
At 19, Shannon was pregnant, married, drinking heavily and using drugs.
Now the mother of three boys, ages 27, 25 and 10, she is clean, sober, and working full time at Joy Junction, a faith-based organization serving the homeless in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
“For 21 years it was the same cycle of always going back to my husband,” she says. “He would try to get clean and sober, but things kept getting worse.”
They were evicted from one apartment after another. Each time, they forfeited furniture and other belongings. “There was one stretch, she recalls, when we lived in a motel for 18 months.” More…
Reno grew up in Memphis, the son of a police officer and the grandson of a minister. Other than some wild-oats years in his early 20s, he lived what he describes as a quiet, alcohol-and drug-free life. He has four children and 13 grandchildren. All of them live in Tennessee, but none in the Memphis area. His wife died 20 years ago in a car accident. He has never remarried.
When the bottom fell out of the housing market in 2009, Reno had to close the small paint-contracting business he had started a few years earlier. He tried cutting back on payroll and other expenses, but there just wasn’t enough work to keep the company going.
Though he’d had a 38-year career in the painting business, working for Sherwin Williams and The Home Depot, Reno was not old enough to begin drawing on Social Security. At the time he closed his business, no one was hiring construction workers or paint contractors. Without a job, Reno fell behind on bills and had to sell his mobile home. “That’s how I wound up at the Memphis Rescue Mission,” he explains. More…
The youngest of nine children, Lindsey was adopted at the age of eight by her maternal grandparents. Now 30, she lives with her three children in a Florida shelter for families.
“My father was out of the picture, living on the west coast. My mom was going to put me in foster care when my grandparents adopted me. They were there for me. My mom was not there for me, and I don’t want to be that kind of mom to my kids.”
The father of Lindsey’s first two children says he wants to be involved in their lives, but he is not helping to support them. He lost his drivers license, and has been unable to keep a job.
Lindsey agreed to share an apartment with her father. He had just moved back to Florida from the west coast, and Lindsey had separated from the father of her two older children. As a single mother with an 11-year-old boy and a 5-year-old girl, she was struggling to keep her apartment.
“My father just could not control his drinking. He finally totaled my car. That’s when things really began to unravel for us.” More…
In 2012, Colorado voters approved a constitutional amendment that cleared the way for the legalization of the growing and consumption of marijuana for recreational use. While the debate continue over where the move has contributed to homelessness in the state, it is undeniable that the rise of the new industry is contributing to economic growth in the region. Boom times for Colorado, especially in the Denver metro area, have led to higher housing costs in an area where the cost of living was already high.
More than 6,000 men, women and children in the Denver metro area are without permanent shelter. To deal with the swelling numbers of homeless people living on the streets, Denver officials are now more aggressively enforcing bans on camping on sidewalks, in public parks and on other public lands. More…
According to the Chatham Savannah Authority for the Homeless, there are more than 4,000 persons living in and around Savannah, GA who are experiencing homelessness. While the majority are men, Savannah’s growing homeless population includes children, single mothers and in-tact families.
Many of Savanah’s homeless sleep in their cars, with friends, in shelters and in tent camps. Encampments are on the rise. Pictured here is the tent city located under the overpass on East President Street. This pictures were made in late March, 2017.
Savannah authorities recently approved building up to 80 16×8 (128 square feet) units to house some of Savannah’s homeless. The unites will cost of $7000 each. Informally known as “The Tiny House Project,” the development will be officially named the Cove at Dunee, and will be located at 75 Dundee. Currently, the CSAH is seeking to raise $1.7 million for the project, and hopes to break ground this summer.
William Benner, who is currently homeless in Savannah, is writing a blog about his experience. Benner writes, “When I first moved to Savannah, I was promised from the friend that invited me, that I would find work easily. However, one job after another fell through, and I was not making enough money through my online efforts to cover all my needs. I soon fell behind in my rent to the point I was evicted from the place I was living. After I was evicted, I knew I had to make a choice, to either live in a conventional shelter, or fend for myself ‘on the streets.'”
In “At Home on the Street, co-authors Jason Adam Wasserman and Jeffrey M. Clair, document the reasons some of Birmingham, Alabama’s homeless choose the streets over shelters. Matthew Desmond, in “evicted,” offers a moving and detailed description of the experiences of some of the thousands of people in Milwaukee, Wisconsin who are evicted each year. In one of his more halting observations, Desmond writes, “While black men are being locked up, black women are being locked out.”
I spent much of yesterday, (Feb. 26, 2017), in Albuquerque meeting with homeless persons and hearing their stories. Later in the day, before joining with a few friends who are forming a writing critique group, I walked around downtown Santa Fe. There I met Tom, pictured immediately below. Tom told me has been living on the streets and in the arroyos of Santa Fe for eight years.
Everyone has a story. If they are approached with respect, if they are shown courtesy, if their dignity is not questioned, most everyone I have meet on the street has been willing share their story, many of which are quite moving and troubling. Certainly among the street population, mental health issues, and drug and alcohol addiction are common, though this is by no means the whole story. Rising housing and utility costs, stagnant wages, declining employment opportunities, and cuts in basic social services are also factors contributing to our nation’s growing homeless crisis.