December 18, 2001
2:50 AM   Subscribe

A flood of homeless at city shelters. '"I think that there must be a greater segment of our population that has tenuous connections to family and friends, and therefore has fewer resources to fall back on when something very bad happens like when they lose their job," he said.' How can there be so many people, who have no one to count on? Are we getting some serious payback from the nuclear family society?
posted by mmarcos (32 comments total)
 
Heh. More like paypack for the weakening of the family, period. And for too many people who can't properly raise or support children having them, anyway.
posted by dissent at 4:10 AM on December 18, 2001


"John Swenson, 44, could not find work at home in Hyannis, Mass., where he had helped paint the shelter. Unemployed for the first time in 15 years, he and his son have been staying at a shelter in Warwick, R.I."

Why the "tenuous connections"? Two reasons: jobseekers often leave their home communities in hope of employment elsewhere, then are stranded among strangers; their friends and families are also struggling economically.
posted by Carol Anne at 4:52 AM on December 18, 2001


Critics of the welfare-to-work programs said this would happen. In states from New Hampshire to Hawaii, the first welfare families are reaching the five-year federal limit just as the economy slumps. The law comes up for reauthorization next year, which is sure to spur a wholesale look at what worked well and what didn't.
posted by ferris at 5:21 AM on December 18, 2001


More like paypack for the weakening of the family

if this is true, perhaps we should go beyond strengthening the family and return to the clan or even tribal structure of society. strong ties to an extended family or ancestral lineage must be better than strong ties to a family only.
posted by tolkhan at 5:23 AM on December 18, 2001


Carol Anne, regardless of distance and hardship, it is too difficult for me to understand that so many people haven't a single individual, family member or friend, who cannot help get them out of a shelter, even if the others are suffering hardship. Certainly some people will have impossibly hard circumstances but not so many. For me there is something more profound here, probably a mix of things. In my family and amongst my friends, I cannot conceive us unable to help each other to get out of a situation, regardless of what it takes, living with someone else for a while, helping people get on their feet. It's a responsbility I have for my family and my friends.
posted by mmarcos at 5:49 AM on December 18, 2001


I noticed especially in urban areas, people who were totally alone with no friends and family to turn too. I think there is a disconnect happening in society and I do blame the weakening too of the family structure. I have offered to take friends in when they were homeless. In both situations they managed to get apts, one section 8, the other a job in time but it saddens me to think that there are so many out there who have no one to turn to. I think its the sign of a society that has really lost its priorities.

I think in many ways we were better off when people lived in the same town for years with multiple family connections. This society with its sink or swim mentality, stinks.
posted by Budge at 6:01 AM on December 18, 2001


"people who can't properly raise or support children having them, anyway."


Not on the crappy wages of many of todays jobs. Theres far less middle class--jobs that can decently raise a family then ever before. Notice in that article that many of the homeless are "working". Greedy people raking it in while the working man cant even afford an apartment because housing costs are out of sight too.
posted by Budge at 6:05 AM on December 18, 2001


it is too difficult for me to understand that so many people haven't a single individual, family member or friend, who cannot help get them out of a shelter, even if the others are suffering hardship.

Maybe they've called in all the favors they could get from their family and friends in the years they were barely making it. Its not like the homeless go from home-owner to street urchin in 12 hours. Also, undiagnosed mental-illness is pretty high amongst the homeless which may explain problems at the job and lack of a social life. It also makes more sense for a caring family member to send $150 then and expect their homeless relative to get back on his feet where he is then spend $150 on a plane ticket, pay for room & board, and wait until he can get a job.
posted by skallas at 6:06 AM on December 18, 2001


All well and said, but how do we go about "strengthening the family?" You can't force people to get along, you can't force people to stay in their hometown, you can't impose familial relations. (Well, the abortion parental notification laws seem to think otherwise, but I'm not gonna get started on that...)

A sneaking suspicion I have is that many of these people may very well have someone they could turn to, but they're too ashamed or self-deprecating to admit they need help. Or their family was dysfunctional to start off with. Anyway, my idea of "strengthening the family" has to start with strengthening the individual, to ask for help without guilt, and have the confidence to get back on their feet. A brigade of good $100/hour therapists helping the people who need it and can't afford it, funded by private donations or the government, depending on your fiscal politics. What are your concrete ideas that we could actually implement without invading people's rights? (Not that the government currently cares about rights, but...)
posted by phoenix enflamed at 6:15 AM on December 18, 2001


skallas, too much generalization. It's impossible that they're all in that situation. Additionally, you might call a huge amount of favors from me but if there are children involved, no matter how frustrated I become with the parent(s), I will not kick them out. The parent(s) may be a screwup but the kids don't deserve to pay the price for that and I will try to make up for it as much as I can. If it's a single person, and they continually screw up, that's different. The article explicitly states there's an increase in families going to shelters.

On the money bit, $150 cash can be worthless compared to a $150 ticket to a place to stay with support from someone close. How can $150 change the situation of someone whose level of desperation has led them to live in a shelter with their child?
posted by mmarcos at 6:20 AM on December 18, 2001


Amidst all the family-is-the -problem stuff it needs to be mentioned that our country is in a major recession and that many of the low-payhing jobs are now taken by illegals, and I know many who hire them and boast about what a great deal it is for them to do so. At a higher level, tech folks chattered on about lack of skilled workers when in fact they were bringing in tech help on visas from overseas--they lat3er stayed on--at significantly lower salaries and Congress supported this influx because industry told them "it was needed"--and besides contributed to election funding.
posted by Postroad at 6:37 AM on December 18, 2001


The "family" is an over-rated fiction invented by neoconservative historical reconstructionists who usually have a religious agenda. Family is not something that has to be defended or promoted - it either occurs or doesn't.

No, what we need is to discover/create more diverse modes of participation in culture/society, rather than keep this artificially narrow focus on a shored-up, idealized view of family.

Some people really are misanthropes - and it is acridly self-serving to insist that misanthropy is a pathological state.

Some people really don't find value in current means of participation in the economy. And again, this isn't necessarily pathological. There's something quixotic/ironic/pathetic about spending taxpayer dollars on a $100/hr "therapist" to provide counseling and job training to a person who has legitimate disdain for our culture's extreme fiscalization of the world.
posted by yesster at 6:39 AM on December 18, 2001


mmarcos - you are in a lucky position, and appear to have a generous attitude. is it possible that not all people share your generous attitude? is it possible that not all people are lucky enough to know someone as generous as yourself?
the homeless 'problem' has never been approached by a government with a view to 'solving' it at a root level, only in an attempt to make it less noticable. attitudes to the homeless 'stink', to use the obvious pun, and people are discouraged from thinking of the homeless as other people who are just like us. government legislation helps to re-inforce these attitudes, as approaching this issue requires a thorough analysis of the society at large, which is not something a government can do due to paranoia about re-election. everythings fine, nothing to see here, move along please.
this issue provides a clear indication of the success of our society, if you judge a society by it's treatment of the 'least' member.
posted by asok at 6:48 AM on December 18, 2001


How can $150 change the situation of someone whose level of desperation has led them to live in a shelter with their child?


It makes more economical sense, you can't assume that the concerned relative can afford the ticket, room and board, etc.

skallas, too much generalization.

Just to clear things up: I would call what I wrote examples and what you initially wrote a generalization. Reasons for getting into this situation are examples, assuming that everyone has someone to go back to is a generalization. This is happening, obviously everyone doesn't have someone there and ready to support them.
posted by skallas at 6:53 AM on December 18, 2001


Not on the crappy wages of many of todays jobs. Theres far less middle class--jobs that can decently raise a family then ever before. Notice in that article that many of the homeless are "working". Greedy people raking it in while the working man cant even afford an apartment because housing costs are out of sight too.

Then those in those "middle class" jobs should forgo children.

Greed sucks... but any legislative attempt to define who should get what is far more scary. Individuals and corporations are easier to fight... when need be... than a government at large. Of course, I don't think we're at the point when fighting needs to be done. The true greed lies in the selfishness of those who insist on their so-called "right" to procreate, when he or she can't merit the income to support the child that results.

I don't trust you... or a majority... or an appointed official... or an elected official... to tell me what should be defined as greed.

I would also add that population growth HAS to stop, at some point. Pure, simple logic dictates this. The least painful way for this to occur is that not everyone should reproduce. The least painful way to decide who has children, and who does not, is for only those who can afford them, to have them.
posted by dissent at 7:25 AM on December 18, 2001


Im almost want to laugh, whats $150 bucks going to do but keep you a week or two from the next crisis? Thats food for a month. Big deal. Its very welcome, and often its hard to be the one asking for it. I have been in that position. Grateful to every friend. Paid em back too.

IF homeless however, food is more EXPENSIVE, no stove or pot to cook food on, it will be gone even sooner. 150 bucks would last a homeless person maybe a week. It isnt life changing.

My family however helped us get out of poverty with a car loan. (have paid on for three years) Changed life TOTALLY. With car, husband could get a job--that paid the bills and we could move to an area where we could have decent standard of living.

I have been super poor--avoided homelessness by just the skin of my teeth. (disability the reason, low paying jobs the other with slumlords demanding huge rents in the big city) Rent was bought before food. Real help requires more then just drops in the bucket. How about living wage jobs? How about a society that actually gives a damn about one another?

Therapists wont do a damn thing, We need decent jobs. We need living wages. A therapist isnt a paycheck.

Families are important. Society has gone to hell in handbasket since the value of family has declined since the 60s. Where freedom became more important then responsiblity to others. I hope the pendulum is due for a swing back.
posted by Budge at 7:27 AM on December 18, 2001


I did forgo children because I couldnt afford them. Now Im 33 and infertile. I believe the population is too high also.
posted by Budge at 7:28 AM on December 18, 2001


Don't believe this "flood of homeless" bushwah. We now know that the last time there was a supposed flood of homeless, in the 1980s, the numbers were wildly inflated. In fact, some commentators predicted that with the inauguration of a Republican administration in Washington, this "flood of homeless" canard would be revived. As Neil Gilbert observes in the March/April 1994 issue of "Society,"

Advocacy research of homelessness has been concerned not only with inflating the estimated number of homeless, but also with defining the nature of their problem. Advocates' estimates of the number of homeless in Chicago were nine times higher than the figures produced by repeated carefully designed scientific surveys. The National Coalition of the Homeless figure of 500,000 homeless children in the United States is ten times higher than the 35,000 calculated from the Urban Institute's national sample and the 40,000 estimated by a survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Advocates take these large numbers to confirm that the homeless are essentially victims of structural flaws and economic forces rather than personal deficiencies...

posted by Faze at 8:03 AM on December 18, 2001


Don't believe this "flood of homeless" bushwah. We now know that the last time there was a supposed flood of homeless, in the 1980s, the numbers were wildly inflated. In fact, some commentators predicted that with the inauguration of a Republican administration in Washington, this "flood of homeless" canard would be revived.

So mentioning the dramatic rise in homeless families would be Duhbya bashing and thus unpatriotic? It's really a created figment for political purposes? Has this issue already been addressed by Rush or something?
posted by nofundy at 8:34 AM on December 18, 2001


Society has gone to hell in handbasket since the value of family has declined since...

doesn't every generation say this about its successors?
posted by tolkhan at 9:03 AM on December 18, 2001


I believe that there is a flood of homelessness! I work on 9th & Market in San Francisco, and I am accosted by 5-10 homeless people in the one block walk from BART to work. Two blocks down the street there is a park (near City Hall) that I once counted 77 homeless people in, and it's not a very big park. SF and Berkeley and Oakland are awash in homeless people. However, most of them look so drug addled and so dirty, they appear to be career homeless, not families down on their luck. I've seen the same crazy homeless guy wandering around Berkeley since 1978! I have NO sympathy for the career homeless.

I want to help the families and people who are trying to get out of the situation. The best immediate thing people can do is give to a LOCAL charity that provides job counseling/placement and mid-long term shelter/home placement. We are a society that should help one another because you NEVER know when it's going to be your turn and you need help.

As for homeless people having children, I get so angry when I see welfare mothers with 7 children from 7 different men saying "I deserve more help from the government." I say, get sterilized or learn about birth control THEN ask for help. But there are a lot of families out there who have children then get hurt, get sick, are beaten by spouses, loose their jobs, and end up homeless. Again, those are the people I feel for.
posted by aacheson at 9:07 AM on December 18, 2001


Don't believe this "flood of homeless" bushwah.

It's the same flood every year, and it happens right around the time it gets cold. Duh.

This does not mean you shouldn't help them out, and aacheson's advice is the best so far - forget Unicef, send money/food/toys to your local charities. I am an athiest, and I send cash+ to a well-known local religious charity, because regardless of the mythology I know that every dollar I send goes to the people that need it.

Best thing you can do for the homeless is check your charities and make sure your buck isn't going into some suit's pocket as "administrative costs."
posted by UncleFes at 9:22 AM on December 18, 2001


Skallas, that's charming. Only rich people should have kids? You know, I think overpopulation is a problem, and I think more people should think before choosing to bring a new life into the world. But saying that even middle class families in lower paying jobs shouldn't have kids is just subjugating one more facet of human life to the almighty dollar.

Can't we consider changing the economics of the situation, before we decide that people of modest means don't have the moral right to reproduce?
posted by Chanther at 9:53 AM on December 18, 2001


It doesn't cost that much to have a child, plus if you can get them a job in the family business or elsewhere, they can earn their keep by age 9! Kids today have it too easy, look at their hardworking compatriots in the 3rd world? No 'gamecubes' for them, just old fashioned hard work, the way it ought to be.

People need to plan out their child's labor (around the restrictive and undemocratic laws Congress has put in place in the last 70 years or so) career in advance, to maximize revenue for the family. In theory, if one had enough children, one could retire at 40!
posted by cell divide at 10:02 AM on December 18, 2001


Skallas, that's charming. Only rich people should have kids?

I said this when now?
posted by skallas at 10:13 AM on December 18, 2001


"Homelessness results from a complex set of circumstances which require people to choose between food, shelter, and other basic needs." Read the rest of the article from the National Coalition for the Homeless. Or check out this report. [big page]

I don't think it's so much an erosion of family as an erosion of community and a feeling of mutual responsibility, including families, plus some pretty devastating cuts to the governmental support systems that were helping many marginal people eke by. I don't think I'm being too much of a pinko by saying that smaller government often begets a new class of downtrodden who can't or won't take care of themselves. It becomes a difficult exercise to then say "well, it would be nice if these folks had family or friends they could count on, but they don't or can't, so NOW what do we do?"

You can talk about strengthening the social fabric all you want, and work towards it, but in the very real present, you have people cold and hungry who also need some more tangible and immediate assistance.
posted by jessamyn at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2001


Agh ... my deepest apologies, skallas. I was refering to Dissent's post ("Then those in those 'middle class' jobs should forgo children"), and must have looked up rather than down for the author's name. Sorry for the mistake.
posted by Chanther at 12:15 PM on December 18, 2001


The average individual in the US is born. How far off is it to consider this individual has some combination of a few uncles/aunts/cousins, potentially grandparents, godparents, sisters/brothers, nieghborhood and school friends, teachers, neighbors, etc.? With some of them the average individual must, surely, establish some meaningful human relationship. I simply cannot understand that joe or josephina average do not have a circle of known people, one or more of which can help out, regardless of whether they're just a few or a thousand miles away.

asok, I know what you're saying but take the circle of people I mention above. How can it be that an individual can find there is no one within the circle who can help out? I understand there are people who don't share my attitude but I'm no saint, I know there are a lot of people who do share my attitude.
posted by mmarcos at 2:18 PM on December 18, 2001


Some people really are misanthropes - and it is acridly self-serving to insist that misanthropy is a pathological state.

It is society-serving to suggest that those who truly have no affection or self-realised need for human interaction have a problem which deserves attention. No man is an island -- that attitude has repercussions for everyone who comes into contact with said misanthrope.

Some people really don't find value in current means of participation in the economy. And again, this isn't necessarily pathological. There's something quixotic/ironic/pathetic about spending taxpayer dollars on a $100/hr "therapist" to provide counseling and job training to a person who has legitimate disdain for our culture's extreme fiscalization of the world.

If someone doesn't want to participate in the economy, fine. Let them make their own way, then. Not in a shelter, not on anyone else's dime. If you think that you are above or beyond society and the way that it operates, fine, but don't rely upon the benefits of our society to sustain you. You want to be a non-participant? Great, let someone else have your bed in the shelter and your bowl of soup, and don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out to freeze to death with a rumbling stomach.
posted by Dreama at 5:08 PM on December 18, 2001


mmarcos: The average individual in the US is born.
Now that's a Quote Worth Keeping! And an utterly unassailable statement. You'll find no quarrel with me on this matter. :)

mmarcos, if you're poor or lower middle-class, you likely don't have the money to cover even a month of someone else's rent or mortgage. Is it really that unreasonable that if you are perpetually cash-strapped, that your friends and family from the same social and economic strata are similarly so and thus can't help you out any more than they can help themselves? Their friends are probably co-workers and people in the same neighborhood, their family likely is in the same economic situation. Whether we want to admit it or not, the economic ranks in this country are pretty well set- individuals do break through the barriers of course,, but as populations and trends go it's still pretty static; the poor stay poor, the rich stay rich, the middle class stays middle class, except when they're on the fringes of the middle class, and one promotion or layoff either knocks them down into the ranks of the "poor" or bumps them up just enough to be "affluent".
posted by hincandenza at 5:33 PM on December 18, 2001


hincandenza, I agree with you. It's not easy, and more difficult by magnitudes as you go down economic classes, I won't argue that, either. It's very tough, but where 3 live, 5 or 6 can live, when children are at risk. It's the children I think about above all.
posted by mmarcos at 2:55 AM on December 19, 2001


... where 3 live, 5 or 6 can live, when children are at risk. It's the children I think about above all."

mmarcos, we need to be honest about what happens when women remain in overcrowded or abusive situations for the sake of their children.


Sometimes the kids are the ones who get abused instead of the women.

How do you do a "time out" instead of whacking a kid, if you have 5-6 hids in a two bedroom apartment? How bad does a living situation need to get before child protective services step in, or before it violates the local zoning laws?

And what happens when a woman of childbearing age finds that in every household willing to take her in, there's some man who has designs on her that don't include a wedding ring?
posted by sheauga at 8:52 PM on December 23, 2001


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