I mentioned we are part of history- granted it would be nice to be on the winning side of this historical snapshot- maybe one of those bankers who, even post-bailout, get enormous bonuses- instead of the losing side, but regardless I find it an interesting position to be in. Mind you it might be interesting because it still doesn’t feel entirely real- frequently I feel more like an observer than a participant. As a middle-aged, middle class professional with a master’s degree, I just don’t fit the homeless demographic.
Nevertheless, the face of homelessness has changed over the past couple years. No longer can homelessness be characterized by the older unemployed man, down on his luck, perhaps afflicted by chronic medical conditions or addictions. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness one in 50 children in America experience homelessness each year. That’s over 1.5 million children.
Among industrialized nations, the United States has the largest number of homeless women and children. Not since the Great Depression have so many families been without homes. National Center on Family Homelessness.
And if that isn’t history, I don’t know what is.
The majority of homeless families- and we came into contact with several this summer, easily differentiated from true campers as they, like us, kept coming back to the park, week after week- are headed by single women of color who lack a higher education and in many cases have a history of domestic violence in their past. Over 92% of homeless mothers have experienced severe physical and/or sexual abuse during their lifetime. Wow.
But I think as a homeless subset middle class professionals are increasingly becoming noticeable and noticed as evidenced by stories on the downfalls of former professionals such as “Mom forced to live in car with dogs” and ‘Ranks of homelessness swell as middle class teeters.” Stories on what many social service providers are calling the newly homeless – people who would never be destitute, without a place to live, if the national economy were not collapsing.
In some ways it’s reassuring – it’s not me, it’s the economy, and I’m not alone in my situation. But that’s a very superficial reassurance when you have four school-aged children in the box car with you.