Blogger Randy Shaw gives a brief history of homelessness in the United States and makes the case for blaming the failures of politicians rather than individuals for the problems of homelessness and hunger in the United States.
“Individual decisions and life events do cause some to be homeless who otherwise would not. But the United States has millions of ill-housed people for one reason: unlike other western nations, we do not provide government assistance to the vast majority who cannot afford to pay private market rent.”
As two examples for failure in housing and food policy, he points to the failure to adequately replace low-income housing through the HUD Hope VI program and the inaction on the part of Congress to raise the minimum wage.
Widespread visible homelessness emerged soon after the Nixon Administration decided in the mid-1970’s to get the federal government out of the affordable housing building business. President Reagan’s 1981 budget dramatically slashed HUD spending, and the federal government has served a smaller percentage of those needing subsidized housing ever since.
Clinton’s last two budgets increased the number of housing vouchers, but even Obama’s “dream team” of affordable housing advocates at HUD were not given the money necessary to meaningfully reduce homelessness.
Until the George W. Bush years, there were Republican Senators and Congress members who backed affordable housing as “brick and mortar” job creators. But for the past decade Republicans have vigorously opposed any expansion of the nation’s low-cost housing supply, and the Party’s 2012 convention backed HUD’s abolition.
But you won’t read or hear about any of this political opposition as the media chronicles its “hard luck” victims. Instead, we’ll hear about people who lost jobs due to illness or traffic accident, or who were plunged into homelessness due to the death of a spouse, or costly medical treatments.