The Homeless: Growing National Problem

October 29, 1982

Report Outline
Impact of the Recession
Past American Experiences
Sources of Homeless Relief
Special Focus

Impact of the Recession

Growing Problem Throughout the Nation

George Orwell's 1933 memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London, contains this rumination about the nature of poverty: “You have thought so much about poverty—it is the thing you have feared all your life, the thing you knew would happen to you sooner or later; and it is all so utterly and prosaically different. You thought it would be quite simple; it is extraordinarily complicated. You thought it would be terrible; it is merely squalid and boring. It is the peculiar lowness of poverty that you discover first; the shifts that it puts you to, the complicated meanness, the crust-wiping.”

With the nation mired in recession, more and more Americans are discovering firsthand the melancholy of poverty. Even worse, increasing numbers are finding themselves at the bottom rung of the poverty ladder—penniless and homeless. Highly visible evidence of the large numbers of homeless Americans is easy to find in nearly every city. Disheveled, dirty men and women can be seen huddled with their meager belongings in city parks, on street corners, in alleyways and abandoned buildings, and in airport, bus station and railway waiting rooms. In the last two years homeless persons have crowded emergency shelters in record numbers. Although exact numbers are impossible to come by, experts estimate that there are between 250,000 and one million homeless persons in the United States today.

“We are seeing the phenomenon all over the country,” said Mitch Snyder of the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington, D.C., a group that works with the homeless in the nation's capital and researches the problem nationwide. “In city after city across the country there's at least a growing awareness of the added dimension and seriousness of the problem of homeless people, of destitute people, of marginal people who are slipping quietly and quickly through the cracks.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Poverty and Homelessness
Jan. 11, 2019  Domestic Poverty
Aug. 04, 2017  Poverty and Homelessness
Jul. 17, 2015  Fighting Urban Poverty
Oct. 10, 2014  Housing the Homeless
Oct. 28, 2011  Child Poverty
Sep. 07, 2007  Domestic Poverty Updated
Jun. 18, 2004  Ending Homelessness
Dec. 22, 2000  Hunger in America
Apr. 07, 2000  Child Poverty
Jan. 26, 1996  Helping the Homeless
Aug. 07, 1992  The Homeless
Mar. 30, 1990  Why Homeless Need More Than Shelter
Sep. 30, 1983  Hunger in America
Oct. 29, 1982  The Homeless: Growing National Problem
Jan. 25, 1967  Status of War on Poverty
Feb. 05, 1964  Persistence of Poverty
Jun. 06, 1956  Pockets of Poverty