“Homelessness could happen to you.” This is a phrase we may quietly utter to our friends, or even to ourselves, when we stroll by a homeless stranger on the street. “There but for the grace of God, go I,” we say.
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If we fail to continue to provide programs that address poverty, more people will end up living on our streets. It’s not as simple as a cash handout. We need to do more.
In a city filled with hundreds of thousands of millionaires, does it really matter that instead of 54,000, we have 36,000 people squandering on our streets like animals?
These broken women on our streets are signs of our broken society. Retiring to our streets should not be allowed.
How does our country allow more than one million school children to be homeless? And how many more children are homeless, and do not attend school at all?
Is the number of people living on our streets going up, or going down?
Which city actually deserves the inglorious distinction of “Homeless Capital of America”? Who is the winner of this human tragedy?… Sadly, the real losers here are the people struggling on our nation’s streets.
For the most visible homeless individuals, at least, the numbers seem to be trending down. More or less.
In the darkness of early morning, the counting can be monotonous, an exercise that almost puts you to sleep. I have written before about the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) mandated homeless counts that occur throughout this country during the month of January. Municipalities have to count their homeless population at least every other year, or they will lose their HUD funding. Some cities count every year.
Counting how many people are languishing on our streets, however, is good. How can we address a sad human tragedy without knowing the extent of the problem? How can we know if we are successfully reducing the number of people on our streets without regularly assessing our work through counts?
For years, academics and government statisticians have been developing and testing alternative poverty measures. Indeed, the individual responsible for developing our current poverty measure has long called for a more modern approach.
Recently, the US Census Bureau published a recalculated poverty rate for 2010, using an alternative method called the Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM). The SPM considers more than just food costs in its calculation, including the cost of clothing, shelter, and utilities as well as adjusting for regional differences in the cost of living. Additionally, while the current poverty measure only considers gross, untaxed income, the SPM accounts for taxes paid, and also credits individuals and families with income supplements like cash-aid welfare and food stamps.