In Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s State of the Union address in 1944, he suggested America adopt a second bill of rights to guarantee every American six fundamental rights as citizens. Besides a decent job, education, Social Security, medical care, and freedom from monopolization, Roosevelt believed every American deserved housing. Seventy years later, Republicans are eliminating decent jobs, freedom from monopolization, and are attempting to eliminate medical care, education, and Social Security. Unfortunately, in 2012 their policies were responsible for keeping well over 640,000 American citizens without housing and their precious sequester will increase those pathetic numbers for the next nine years. It is appalling that, like ravaging hunger and poverty, the richest nation in the world has any homeless Americans, but that is the state of the nation with Republicans setting economic policy.
Accompanying the depressing statistics that hundreds-of-thousands of Americans are homeless is the seriously disheartening number of homeless citizens that perish every year because they lack housing. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, approximately 700 homeless Americans die every year from hypothermia; typically on the East Coast and Midwest because of harsh winters. But this year while temperatures have repeatedly dipped below freezing in California, thousands of homeless people were in danger of dying and sadly in the Bay Area, seven American citizens froze to death because they lacked housing.
Last week, a 50-year-old man who wanted to work but was only able to find occasional odd jobs that prevented him from affording a place to live was forced to sleep outside in freezing temperatures because there were no available emergency shelters for single men. The man, a father and grandfather, who had lived on the streets for several years, was looking forward to permanent shelter because he moved up to second place on a list to get permanent supportive housing after waiting in line for months. On December 10th the man was found dead in an old city hall courtyard wearing only a hoodie and shorts because he had been robbed of a new winter coat his sister had sent him less than a week before. Police said the man’s death was weather related after temperatures fell below freezing the day he died; he was the seventh homeless person to die of hypothermia (freezing to death) since a cold spell hit the region around the end of November. As tragic as the number of Americans freezing to death for lack of shelter is, it is the number of Americans who are homeless that should shame politicians into taking action, but as Americans know, Republicans are incapable of being shamed as they are barbaric and inhumane toward American citizens.
About 62,000 (13%) of all homeless persons are veterans, and these men and women who put their lives on the line for their country, these heroes that men like compassionate conservative Paul Ryan calls “takers,” are living on the streets because they cannot find work or affordable housing. President Obama and Democrats attempted to create a jobs and housing assistance programs to help them, but Senate Republicans prevented a vote on both jobs and housing programs using their favorite weapon the filibuster; as Republican Pat Toomey said, “some on my side did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it.” It was also likely because as Republican Tom Coburn said, “We ought to do nothing now that makes the problem worse for our kids and grandkids,” which is just one of the GOP’s phony reasons to withhold spending for anything to help any Americans. Such is the state of America, and why tens-of-millions of Americans living in poverty and face the very real prospect of not only being jobless and hungry, but sick and homeless as well.
Even for Americans finding low-paying jobs Republicans claim is why they are ending unemployment benefits for 1.3 million Americans, a full-time worker with a family earning minimum wage could not afford fair-market rent for an apartment anywhere in the U.S. according to estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It leaves hardworking Americans to make a hard choice of whether to feed their family and live on the streets, or put all their pay into meager shelter and let their families and themselves go hungry. They can hardly count on food assistance anymore because Republicans intend to slash more from food stamps to keep pace with their cuts to housing assistance because depriving “takers” from their right to nutrition is on par with keeping them homeless in Republican circles.
The Republican sequester drastically cut housing assistance for Section 8 candidates, and many of those on waiting lists were informed earlier in the year their prospect for finding affordable shelter was so remote that counselors began warning new, prospective, and existing recipients not to sell their vehicles because they would need them for shelter. Sadly, many homeless people suffer from mental illness as a result of Republican man-turned-god Ronald Reagan who not only emptied every mental hospital flooding California streets with homeless mentally ill residents, but he and Republicans eliminated President Jimmy Carter’s Mental Health Systems Act before the ink had barely dried on the legislation.
This is the America Republicans began creating thirty years ago when they initiated their crusade to shrink the government that exists to serve the people; particularly those who are in need through no fault of their own. Over the past five years, they ramped up their assault on domestic programs at the behest of groups headed by the Koch brothers who will see their “vision of a transformed America” to fruition one way or another and despite the cost in Americans’ lives. As many Americans are witnessing, that vision includes poverty, hunger, and hundreds-of-thousands of American citizens living on the streets with no prospect of ever having a decent job, healthcare, education, Social Security, or even housing; basic rights that Roosevelt attempted to procure for every American 70 years ago. Sadly for Americans, Republicans have spent all 70 years attempting to eliminate those basic human rights and tragically they are nearing the point of victory.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.