Foreclosures, Homelessness & Corporate Greed
Six months after Wall Street tanked the economy and took billions in profits, bail-outs, and bonuses, foreclosures in the U.S. jumped by over 30%. In the month of April 2009 alone, there were 342,038 foreclosure filings, an increase of 32% from April of 2008. According to a report issued by the National Coalition for the Homeless, a national survey of homeless people found that 79% of them had lost their homes to foreclosure.1
In 2013, over a million and a half children are homeless and the Department of Education reported in May 2013 that more children than ever before—over one million schoolchildren—do not have stable housing in this country.2
As of November 2013, not one single Wall Street broker, banker, or subprime mortgage lenders has yet to be jailed, though plenty of people who were made homeless by the foreclosures have been criminalized and jailed. Instead, the top brokerage firms and their wealthy investors who were involved in issuing fraudulent and unethical subprime mortgages and involved in selling bundles of them like stock commodities have seen record profits since their theft of billions of dollars in wealth from the rest of the nation. As they’ve gotten wealthier, the rest of us have gotten poorer because the money we’re losing—in foreclosed homes, wage cuts, job losses, soaring education costs, skyrocketing medical and prescription costs, usury masquerading as interest on our debts, shouldering the increasing tax bills for the corporations and wealthy elite who pay no taxes—is the money they’re getting. By the boatloads.
As of April 2013, nearly 50 million people in the U.S. had fallen into poverty, the highest level since the 1960s, and according to a 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service, “U.S. income distribution appears to be among the most unequal of all major industrialized countries.”3
The number of homeless people continues to increase, and the U.S. Department of Education reported that in 2013, the number of homeless children enrolled in public schools across the country topped one million for the first time; there are now 1,100,000 children in our country for whom school is the only safe, certain place because they have no permanent place to live.4 When added to those who are not in school, the total number of homeless children in the U.S. is 1.6 million.5
In addition, the number of available beds in the largest cities, where the numbers of homeless people are hitting new highs, has been inadequate to keep up with demand.6,7,8,9
Even when emergency shelters are able to add beds, the need is so great they simply can’t provide the safe spaces. The U.S. Conference of Mayors reports that from September 2012 to the end of August 2013, of the 25 cities surveyed for their annual report:
[S]helters in 78 percent (18) of the cities consistently had clients sleep on overflow cots, in chairs, in hallways, or use other subpar sleeping arrangements. In 61 percent (14) of the cities, shelters distributed vouchers for hotel or motel stays because shelter beds were not available. In 52 percent (12) of the cities, shelters increased the number of persons or families that could sleep in a single room. In 26 percent (six) of the cities, buildings have been converted to temporary shelters.10
Other strategies used by emergency shelters include shortening the length of stays and using spaces previously only used for extreme emergencies like subzero temperatures. They’ve also had to turn people away: “Seventy-one percent (17) of the survey cities report that emergency shelters had to turn away families with children experiencing homelessness because there were no beds available for them. Two-thirds (16) had to turn away homeless unaccompanied individuals.”11
The numbers are appalling, particularly for a nation that spends billions every year to drop bombs and wage wars: According the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, on a single night in January 2013, there were 610,042 people “experiencing homelessness” in the U.S., and 130,515 of them were children under the age of 18.12
But these numbers are deceptively low because they only count those who are spending the night in emergency shelters, transitional housing or in “unsheltered locations.” The reality is that many more people are living in temporary, unstable housing: “doubled up” with relatives and friends, living temporarily in hotels or in places away from the prying eyes of a government that wants to arrest them, deport them, or institutionalize them.
The difference between a single night count and the actual numbers is dramatic. When the U.S. Conference of Mayors conducted their latest annual survey of 25 cities across the country, the total number of homeless people on a single night was 86,719. But the total number in those same cities of “unduplicated homeless persons in emergency shelters and transitional housing over the past year” was nearly double: 173,342.13
Homelessness affects women disproportionately, particularly women who are victims of violent crime and attempting to escape physical and sexual abuse. Over one-third of homeless single mothers are coping with post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the abuse and over half are dealing with major depression.14
The number of foreclosures is also continuing to rise. From October 2012 to October 2013, the number of scheduled judicial foreclosures across the country rose by 7% to 30,023.15
And still the bankers and brokers, and title companies and insurance execs who inflated housing values, sold subprime loans, falsified documents, and cheated millions out of their homes and savings are raking in record profits.
In fact, as of 2013, the distribution of wealth in this country has now reached the extremes of wealth and poverty of Boston’s colonial days when one third of the adult male populationa was impoverished and when the top 1% of the population owned 44% of the wealth.16
Today America is not so different: The top 1% of our population owns 42% of our nation’s wealth.17
Criminalizing the Poor in America Today
Taxes and Uprisings
The Note to Foreclosures, Homelessness & Corporate Greed
a: Since females were considered property of men, they were not counted.