Tag Archives: homeless

‘A Crisis of Historic Proportions’

Unemployment moving map

The New Poor

Even as the American economy shows tentative signs of a rebound, the human toll of the recession continues to mount, with millions of Americans remaining out of work, out of savings and nearing the end of their unemployment benefits.

Economists fear that the nascent recovery will leave more people behind than in past recessions, failing to create jobs in sufficient numbers to absorb the record-setting ranks of the long-term unemployed.

Call them the new poor: people long accustomed to the comforts of middle-class life who are now relying on public assistance for the first time in their lives — potentially for years to come.

Yet the social safety net is already showing severe strains. Roughly 2.7 million jobless people will lose their unemployment check before the end of April unless Congress approves the Obama administration’s proposal to extend the payments, according to the Labor Department.

Here in Southern California, Jean Eisen has been without work since she lost her job selling beauty salon equipment more than two years ago. In the several months she has endured with neither a paycheck nor an unemployment check, she has relied on local food banks for her groceries.

She has learned to live without the prescription medications she is supposed to take for high blood pressure and cholesterol. She has become effusively religious — an unexpected turn for this onetime standup comic with X-rated material — finding in Christianity her only form of health insurance.

“I pray for healing,” says Ms. Eisen, 57. “When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got to go with what you know.”

Warm, outgoing and prone to the positive, Ms. Eisen has worked much of her life. Now, she is one of 6.3 million Americans who have been unemployed for six months or longer, the largest number since the government began keeping track in 1948. That is more than double the toll in the next-worst period, in the early 1980s.

Men have suffered the largest numbers of job losses in this recession. But Ms. Eisen has the unfortunate distinction of being among a group — women from 45 to 64 years of age — whose long-term unemployment rate has grown rapidly.

In 1983, after a deep recession, women in that range made up only 7 percent of those who had been out of work for six months or longer, according to the Labor Department. Last year, they made up 14 percent.

Twice, Ms. Eisen exhausted her unemployment benefits before her check was restored by a federal extension. Last week, her check ran out again. She and her husband now settle their bills with only his $1,595 monthly disability check. The rent on their apartment is $1,380.

“We’re looking at the very real possibility of being homeless,” she said.

Every downturn pushes some people out of the middle class before the economy resumes expanding. Most recover. Many prosper. But some economists worry that this time could be different. An unusual constellation of forces — some embedded in the modern-day economy, others unique to this wrenching recession — might make it especially difficult for those out of work to find their way back to their middle-class lives.

Labor experts say the economy needs 100,000 new jobs a month just to absorb entrants to the labor force. With more than 15 million people officially jobless, even a vigorous recovery is likely to leave an enormous number out of work for years.

Some labor experts note that severe economic downturns are generally followed by powerful expansions, suggesting that aggressive hiring will soon resume. But doubts remain about whether such hiring can last long enough to absorb anywhere close to the millions of unemployed.

A New Scarcity of Jobs

Some labor experts say the basic functioning of the American economy has changed in ways that make jobs scarce — particularly for older, less-educated people like Ms. Eisen, who has only a high school diploma.

Large companies are increasingly owned by institutional investors who crave swift profits, a feat often achieved by cutting payroll. The declining influence of unions has made it easier for employers to shift work to part-time and temporary employees. Factory work and even white-collar jobs have moved in recent years to low-cost countries in Asia and Latin America. Automation has helped manufacturing cut 5.6 million jobs since 2000 — the sort of jobs that once provided lower-skilled workers with middle-class paychecks.

“American business is about maximizing shareholder value,” said Allen Sinai, chief global economist at the research firm Decision Economics. “You basically don’t want workers. You hire less, and you try to find capital equipment to replace them.”

During periods of American economic expansion in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the number of private-sector jobs increased about 3.5 percent a year, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by Lakshman Achuthan, managing director of the Economic Cycle Research Institute, a research firm. During expansions in the 1980s and ’90s, jobs grew just 2.4 percent annually. And during the last decade, job growth fell to 0.9 percent annually.

“The pace of job growth has been getting weaker in each expansion,” Mr. Achuthan said. “There is no indication that this pattern is about to change.”

Before 1990, it took an average of 21 months for the economy to regain the jobs shed during a recession, according to an analysis of Labor Department data by the National Employment Law Project and the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research group in Washington.

After the recessions in 1990 and in 2001, 31 and 46 months passed before employment returned to its previous peaks. The economy was growing, but companies remained conservative in their hiring.

Some 34 million people were hired into new and existing private-sector jobs in 2000, at the tail end of an expansion, according to Labor Department data. A year later, in the midst of recession, hiring had fallen off to 31.6 million. And as late as 2003, with the economy again growing, hiring in the private sector continued to slip, to 29.8 million.

It was a jobless recovery: Business was picking up, but it simply did not translate into more work. This time, hiring may be especially subdued, labor economists say.

Traditionally, three sectors have led the way out of recession: automobiles, home building and banking. But auto companies have been shrinking because strapped households have less buying power. Home building is limited by fears about a glut of foreclosed properties. Banking is expanding, but this seems largely a function of government support that is being withdrawn.

At the same time, the continued bite of the financial crisis has crimped the flow of money to small businesses and new ventures, which tend to be major sources of new jobs.

All of which helps explain why Ms. Eisen — who has never before struggled to find work — feels a familiar pain each time she scans job listings on her computer: There are positions in health care, most requiring experience she lacks. Office jobs demand familiarity with software she has never used. Jobs at fast food restaurants are mostly secured by young people and immigrants.

If, as Mr. Sinai expects, the economy again expands without adding many jobs, millions of people like Ms. Eisen will be dependent on an unemployment insurance already being severely tested.

“The system was ill prepared for the reality of long-term unemployment,” said Maurice Emsellem, a policy director for the National Employment Law Project. “Now, you add a severe recession, and you have created a crisis of historic proportions.”

Fewer Protections

Some poverty experts say the broader social safety net is not up to cushioning the impact of the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Social services are less extensive than during the last period of double-digit unemployment, in the early 1980s.

On average, only two-thirds of unemployed people received state-provided unemployment checks last year, according to the Labor Department. The rest either exhausted their benefits, fell short of requirements or did not apply.

“You have very large sets of people who have no social protections,” said Randy Albelda, an economist at the University of Massachusetts in Boston. “They are landing in this netherworld.”

When Ms. Eisen and her husband, Jeff, applied for food stamps, they were turned away for having too much monthly income. The cutoff was $1,570 a month — $25 less than her husband’s disability check.

Reforms in the mid-1990s imposed time limits on cash assistance for poor single mothers, a change predicated on the assumption that women would trade welfare checks for paychecks.

Yet as jobs have become harder to get, so has welfare: as of 2006, 44 states cut off anyone with a household income totaling 75 percent of the poverty level — then limited to $1,383 a month for a family of three — according to an analysis by Ms. Albelda. Full Story

Homeless Shut Out of Underworld Cave/Home

Homeless “Cave” Uncovered In Los Angeles

Sacramento’s Tent City Evictions

Less than a month ago Governor Schwarzenegger visited the home of the homeless in Tent City Sacremento. His visit came on the heels of Lisa Ling’s coverage of Tent City on Oprah. Now the residents have been given eviction notices to vacate by Wednesday despite many thinking that Schwarzenegger was there to help them. Those who refuse to leave will be arrested.

Tent Cities in America: A Lisa Ling Special Report On Oprah

Schwarzenegger Visits Sacramento’s ‘Tent City’

How Do People End Up In Tent City?

The next video is from iCare-America, a project to help those who are homeless. It was started by a man who lost his home due to the economy.

Tent City Homeless Vacate Notice By Police – iCare-America

Sacramento’s Tent City Residents to be Evicted

After Oprah brought national attention to the tent city in Sacramento, California, Governor Schwarzenegger paid them a visit. The occupants of tent city were excited, thinking that Schwarzenegger’s visit means they are now going to be taken care of, but are they simply being evicted with no future homestead in place? Is the offer of a free dumpster a way to clean the area up before they get ousted?

Schwarzenegger Visits Sacramento’s ‘Tent City’

California “tent city” for homeless to be closed

The mayor of California’s state capital unveiled plans on Thursday to shut down a sprawling “tent city” of the homeless that has drawn worldwide media attention as a symbol of U.S. economic decline.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson promised to first make alternative shelter space available for the estimated 150 men and women who inhabit the squalid encampment near the American River, at the edge of the city’s downtown.

Johnson, who toured the area with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger a day earlier, said he hoped to have the ramshackle settlement cleared of tents and debris in the next two to three weeks.

“We want to move as quickly as we can,” he told a news conference, insisting the city was determined to treat the tent dwellers with compassion.

“They are people out there. We have to do whatever we can do,” he said. “We as a city are not going to shy away from it. We’re going to tackle it head-on.”

Advocates for the homeless applauded the mayor’s action. Municipal authorities in Sacramento have been debating the fate of the tent city for weeks.

Sacramento has one of the highest mortgage foreclosure rates in the United States, and the homeless total in the city and surrounding county is estimated to have jumped nearly 10 percent last year to nearly 2,700. About half are believed to be living outdoors, according to a local survey.

The tent city site, near an almond-processing plant beside a railroad freight line, made global headlines after it was featured last month on “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” Full Story

Out-of-Control Cops

Several years ago I attended a university lecture by the rapper artist Ice-T who told the audience that seeing a cop car in the rearview mirror while driving does not lend a feeling of comfort. I think that he was predominately referring to the experience of a person of color, which constitutes the highest percentage of cases of police brutality, though cops seem to be less discriminating with their rage these days.

I witnessed my (Mexican) brother-in-law being abused by two cops who tasered him several times. He was arrested on bogus charges and not allowed to defend himself. It was not until he was bent over the trunk of a cop car with his hands behind his back that the police began using a taser on him. When his wife and I protested we were threatened with it as well. And arrested for daring to speak out.

The number of incidents continue to grow at an alarming rate. Here are only a smattering of stories showing cops out of control.

Raw Video: Conn. Officer Beats Suspect

A Connecticut police department has released a video showing that a former Meriden police officer kept beating a suspect after the man had stopped struggling. (March 19)

Fascist Cops Beat Homeless Man

King County Sheriff beats 15 year old girl- Raw video with AUDIO

A security video released Friday shows a King County sheriff’s deputy shoving, kicking and punching a 15-year-old girl (Malika Calhoun) in a holding cell after her arrest. The deputy, Paul Schene, 31, has been charged with fourth-degree assault in connection with the Nov. 29 incident in a holding cell at SeaTac City Hall. Schene pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday, and he was released on his own recognizance.

Bart Police shooting in Oakland

Fully Nude Strip Search by Cops
Hope Steffey’s ‘Abu Ghraib’ Treatment at the Stark County Jail

Study: 2,002 died in police custody over 3 years

More than 2,000 criminal suspects died in police custody over a three-year period, half of them killed by officers as they scuffled or attempted to flee, the government said Thursday. Full Story

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This story comes from a blog entry by the sister of Greg Laughon who was beaten into a coma by cops (for the charge of having twenty-six grams of marijuana in his possession) where he remains, four years later.

Greg Survived but at What Cost…

‘I’ll do Whatever it Takes to Get a Job’

Begging for a job

What Would Jesus Do?

Of all the stories I’ve heard of Jesus, he befriended the downtrodden.

Church Faces Eviction Because Of Members It Serves

Economic problems first put a Columbus church in danger of closing, but now the people it serves are the main issue.

Living Hope Tabernacle leaders decided to change the church’s mission to include housing the homeless, but the church didn’t follow zoning rules and the landlord didn’t approve the change, 6News’ Rick Hightower reported.

Some of the poorest of the poor find sanctuary inside the church’s tiny storefront, but the church’s pastor, Christopher Rutan, said he has until Feb. 19 to shut it down.

The economy caused the congregation’s leaders to fall behind on rent, but even after someone stepped forward to pay it, the property owner said the church has to go because of the minister’s decision to let homeless people start sleeping in the pews.

6News attempted to reach the landlord for comment, but he didn’t respond. Columbus city officials would have to alter zoning regulations to allow the church/homeless shelter to stay where it is.

Rutan said he had no intention of starting a homeless shelter, but when temperatures dipped well below zero a few weeks back, he said he couldn’t help but open the door and let people in out of the cold.

“The reason we did it is because we had one man freeze to death here in Bartholomew County on Christmas,” Rutan said.

Full Story