Poverty and Homelessness
August 4, 2017
Will the Trump budget slash programs for the needy?

With the economy growing and unemployment falling, the number of people homeless or living in poverty has dropped in recent years. But advocates for the poor warn that wages for lower-skilled positions are still rising slowly. Advocates also worry about the fate of nutrition assistance and other safety-net programs that would be slashed under President Trump’s proposed fiscal 2018 budget. Medicaid, which provides health insurance for the poor, is under threat as well. Although experts say Congress will not approve the president’s budget without significant changes, the final product still may include the deepest cuts to anti-poverty programs in decades. The Trump administration argues that a strengthening economy will lift people out of such programs. Nevertheless, advocates say that without federal help, millions risk homelessness and hunger.

A man searches for food scraps and cigarette butts in downtown Santa Fe, N.M., on Feb. 21, 2017. (Getty Images/Robert Alexander) A man searches for food scraps and cigarette butts in downtown Santa Fe, N.M., on Feb. 21, 2017. Cities are trying various approaches to reduce homelessness, which is made worse by rapidly rising rents in many locations. (Getty Images/Robert Alexander)

Eight years after the last recession ended, rates of poverty and homelessness remain high, though they have come down a bit. In September, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 43.1 million people lived in poverty in 2015, down by 3.5 million from 2014. 1 (As measured by the official rate, the poverty threshold for a family of four is a household income of $24,600.) Over the past decade, the number of homeless Americans decreased 15 percent, including a 3 percent drop between 2015 and 2016, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness. 2

But advocates for the poor worry those trends may not continue. Even with the economy growing, millions still languish in poverty. Although the official unemployment rate stood at 4.4 percent in June — near a 10-year low — wage gains have been sluggish. 3