Definition of Problem
The face of homelessness has changed in the United States. Since the recession of 2008, many Americans were awakened by their own circumstances that included being homeless. The economic crunch of the housing market devastated the American economy. While certainly the working and war veterans have been overwhelmed with homelessness, no one expected for the middle-class to find themselves “homeless”. The problem is that due to the shrinking middle class, many in this population are being impacted with homelessness. Researchers have focused on this new issue of homelessness for quite some time, and they have suggested different factors that have led to going from middle class to homeless.
The crises of the recession from 2008, saw a surge of middle-class families losing their homes. While their loss may be different from the most impacted group of homeless population, they are still negatively affected. Many of this population were displaced and lost their homes to the economic crunch, hence why they too are homeless. Both the rural working class and urban working class have seen the detriments of an unstable economy. However, rural economies are impacted more due to their industries. According to Greenblatt the rural working class does not recover as well from recession as urban America due to their industries. Greenblatt writes “There just aren’t enough jobs. By now, it’s a familiar story that many manufacturing plants have shut down or moved and taken their jobs with them” (24). With the loss of jobs, these communities have essentially become the working poor. The working poor eventually becomes homeless if they do not sustain themselves economically. Many middle-class families who loss homes due to the recession, found themselves taking refuge in their own families, choosing to live with family members before trying to find their way back to being comfortable enough to live on their own.
The middle class have other factors besides a struggling economy and the loss of manufacturing jobs that find them facing homelessness. Sometimes family misgivings interrupt their lifestyle. In the case of Joe from Pennsylvania, who had to uproot his life in order to care for his sick mother, life took an economic downturn for him. He noted that he is more than likely part of the lower-middle class at $15 an hour, but was not able to find consistent employment when he moved back home (Long and Whiteside). With the rise in cost of living, $15 an hour and temporary work are not ideal for a working class citizen in Pennsylvania. Joe’s story is not unique any more. Many of middle class Americans have found themselves in similar dire situations due to layoffs and family situations.
Many experts believe that the face of homelessness has changed because the political support of the working class has changed. Greenblatt explains that the democrats, who used to be the voice for the working place, have now become represented by more sophisticated and educated leaders, who have been a generation removed from manufacturing jobs (Greenblatt). Nyhan argues that due to these changes, the gap has certainly narrowed between the working poor and middle class. He writes, “The poor are not like you and me. They are homeless men huddled outside shelters, single mothers lingering on welfare in the projects or, most recently, dirt-poor families ripped apart by freak hurricanes on the Gulf Coast” (Nyhan 26). However, even with this assessment of the poor, he argues that there is no clear boundaries any more between the above description of homelessness and the new face.
Unfortunately with the gap narrowing between these two demographics in America, the poor are indeed like “you and me”. There is no longer a clear boundary between the haves and the have nots. Many have argued that while the gap between the working poor and middle-class is narrowing, the gap between the middle-class and upper class have continued to widen. This has led to speculation of the middle class becoming obsolete. Yet, many experts like Nyhan are not quick to come to that conclusion just yet. He does note that it is much easier for the middle-class to lose their place in society versus anyone else. It is hard for middle-class Americans to regain their economic status, therefore, more times than not they may remain as part of the working poor (Greenblatt)
Overall, the topic of homelessness in America continues to allow experts to weigh in their opinions. While many displaced middle class workers may not hold signs asking for food, they are still indicative of what is happening around the country. The middle class is losing footing and are finding ways to stay afloat to live through homelessness or avoid it. Culturally the American Dream, used to be to buy a home and raise a family. However, in these days families are now overcrowded in their own homes because they have taken in a family member who loss everything. At this point, the American Dream means to just survive in these troubling times. Therefore, homelessness in America is no longer the face on the corner, it is the relative son who moved back home with his parents in order to avoid begging for change on the street. As Jo from Pennsylvania writes “When I was a kid growing up…America was the greatest place on planet earth. We were the envy of the civilized world. I never thought this could happen here” (Long and Whiteside, par. 3).
- Greenblatt, Alan. “Stuck in the middle: in rural America, middle-class workers seem to be caught in an endless recession.” Governing, Aug. 2016, p. 24+.
- Long, Heather, and Logan Whiteside. “How I went from middle class to homeles.” , CNN. Accessed 4 Dec. 2016.
- Nyhan, Paul. “The working poor: is their gap with the middle class narrowing? A reporter looks for ways to merge coverage of the middle class and the poor.” Nieman Reports, vol. 60, no. 1, 2006, p. 26+. Academic OneFile