The road ends, but the journey continues...

Homeless & Jobless Americans: Breaking the Stereotypes

Quote symbolSomeone once said that we all, each and every one of us are at most only two tragedies from homelessness.   It could be a family illness coupled with a job loss or any number of similar situations, including fire, earthquake, storm, abandonment, death of loved one, mental illness, service in war, or simply a landlord deciding to use his property in a different manner as the Beamans found out.   Also we all know that foreclosure is forcing hundreds of thousands out of their homes.   Couple that with another unfortunate event and many of these will be homeless.  Unexpectedly and unwillingly homeless through no fault of their own.
Combinations of these unexpected events can push almost anyone into homelessness at any time.   Not drugs, not alcohol, not laziness, not gambling, not any of those things.  Think about it.  Many of the homeless in the woods near your neighborhood are just plain people like yourself that have hit a couple of speed bumps in their life too many.

Homelessness, and by association Joblessness, has become the biggest non-discriminatory segment within the American population.  While this group has always encompassed fringe members of our population, its reach has expanded considerably to include veterans, families, all ethnic & racial groups, spanning multiple generations and social spheres and as many slices of diversity in mainstream society as one can imagine. To further complicate the stereotypical profile, a full 25% of the homeless are actually employed, and 44% have done some sort of paid work during the past month.
In short – this ever-growing community encompasses: Everyday Americans…living a Third World existence in the land of freedom, opportunity and great wealth.

Quote symbolI know “Third World America” is a jarring phrase…a way of saying that if we don’t change course–and quickly–that could very well be our future. Growing up in Greece, everyone knew someone who’d left to find a better life in America. That was the phrase everyone associated with America: “a better life.” When I came to live here in 1980, I knew that there was no other place I’d rather live. And I still feel that way. But something went wrong–terribly wrong–and put our country on a very dangerous path that threatens to transform us into Third World America. …in so many of the stories we covered on The Huffington Post, I kept seeing all the ways the middle class was getting the short end of the stick. It was the way that Washington rushed to the rescue of Wall Street but forgot about Main Street. It was the daily drumbeat of depressing statistics: One in five Americans unemployed or underemployed. One in eight mortgages in default or foreclosure. One in eight Americans on food stamps. Upward mobility has always been at the center of the American dream–a promise that if you work hard and play by the rules, you’ll do well and your children will have the chance to do even better. But now, that promise has been broken–and America’s middle class is under assault. The American Dream is becoming a nightmare–one of our own making. But the book, at its core, is, in fact, optimistic. It’s partly a critique of the many ways things are broken–but it’s also a practical guide for how to fix them.  ~ Arianna Huffington, author and editor-in-chief Huffington Post

Contrary to popular belief, Everyday Americans are:

  • Educated yet Jobless
  • Self-sacrificing Heroes yet Homeless
  • Hardworking yet considered Slackers
  • Tax payers yet Ignored
  • Patriotic yet Marginalized
  • Industrious yet Jobless & Homeless
  • Contributing members of Society yet Stigmatized

Bottom line – no matter what socio-economic strata one is living, joblessness leads to homelessness.  It may take years before all reserves are depleted and all personal resources maxed out – unemployment runs out, retirement funds cashed in, friends and family helps and loans run thin, selling & pawning of possessions diminish, finally, attempts of selling of their home hopefully before it goes into short sale or repossession…
Unfortunately, when one is jobless and in the midst of trying to find employment of any kind, bills just don’t get paid.
Yet the fact remains, people still need a place to live. Often renting something as incongruous as an extended stay hotel room, adds up to a similar monthly expense as a rental or home mortgage.
More than just people ‘down on their luck’ these are typical working class/middle class people – educated, pursuing the mythical American dream; working hard, building families, savings accounts, strong communities.
Unbelievably large numbers of Americans, affected by the economy of the past almost decade, can’t get back into the work force once pushed out of it for whatever reason.  Thrust into the minimum wage work force, many ‘Everyday Americans’ are often over qualified for such employment or have ‘aged-out’ of  those particular job profiles.  And due to jobless time-gaps in their professional resumes, obtaining gainful employment in the workforce for which they have been trained is almost nil.
The fact is, there are countless articles documenting such situations.  I have bookmarked* a small sampling of such accounts spanning several years.  With each newer report, there is the glaring fact of the problem only becoming more compounded regardless of any possible economic rebound.
Perhaps this is a good place to pause and:

Rethink Homelessness


*while many are linked in this blog post, out of a list of over 40, here are a selected few to view: the new face of homelessness, baby boomers: retired, homeless, and middle class families homeless after job losses.



  1. Khaya Ronkainen

    Oh, wow! Your post is very informative, and the video is deeply moving. We all should rethink homelessness, indeed. Thank you for sharing this, Laura.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Unfortunately this could be today’s headlines.

  2. deborahbrasket

    This is such an important topic. Thank you for shining a light on it!

    • laura bruno lilly

      One light at a time….

  3. Anna Scott Graham

    What truly amazes me is how numb we are becoming to this issue. Extended families are so much a thing of the past in many parts (although not in all) of our society. But that isn’t the only manner of rescue; people need to matter, and that has become a lost notion, especially in my neck of the woods.

    • laura bruno lilly

      Specifically addressing the ‘extended family’…did you know that in many communities it is illegal to have more than 2 generations of a family in a single family home/dwelling?????And further, the number of people (related or not) in a household is monitored as well. Not rental units, but privately owned homes…and not only within existing/newer HOA developments (where those who buy into the community know of the ‘rules’), but laws created specifically to keep homeless numbers at bay…So it’s not totally an issue of families neglecting their ‘own’…it’s active harassment of families trying to help via “doubling up”. 🙁
      Yep, people need to matter to those in ‘charge’…..

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