Friday, March 27, 2009

Recession Increasing Interest In Homelessness

This week the homeless population of the United States received a profile boost. On Tuesday, during President Obama's primetime press conference, a reporter from Ebony magazine asked about the rise of tent cities across the country and a new study showing that every fiftieth American child is homeless.

"Part of the change in attitudes that I want to see here in Washington and all across the country," the president said in response, "is a belief that it is not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours."

A change in attitudes may be underway. While the recession has exacerbated homelessness, it has not created a new phenomenon. Take it from Obama: "The homeless problem was bad even when the economy was good," he told the Ebony reporter.

The headlines about shantytowns and homeless children may reflect more of an increase in interest in homelessness than the impact of the recession. Those tent-dwellers sunk their stakes before this recession started, and the child homelessness study is based on data from three years ago. The tents and the homeless kids are indicative not of the current economy, but of a long-standing problem.


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