We live on the west side of Lansing, which is a part of Eaton County. Two other counties serve Lansing – Ingham and Clinton counties.
Within the tri-county area there are more than 8,700 homeless people, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. Not all of these have been counted “through shelters or services used” (“Hoping for a Handout” by Belinda Thurston, City Pulse, September 17th). That number is 7,800, which leaves a few hundred that don’t use city services, trying to take care of themselves in every respect. There is always increased concern for the homeless as the winter approaches.
We see homeless people every day, especially at intersections where many hold up signs announcing their situation, asking for money.
Research in Michigan has shown that “of the single adult homeless in Michigan:
- 66% had an identified disability
- 72% were mentally ill
- 33% had addiction issues
- 33% had chronic health conditions
- 66% reported more than one homeless event in their past; 33% reported more than two events.
“Homelessness is often a condition as a result of failed life skills, and it will take an inculcation across many skill sets to prepare the chronically homeless to be self-sufficient, reliable and accountable.”
Continuing: “Common issues include long-term unemployment or unstable employment . . . ”
This brings us to the recovery or, rather, “The Recovery That Left Out Almost Everybody” (the title of an article in the Wall Street Journal by William A. Galston, 23rd September).
This article shows that only the top 10%, “with average annual incomes nearing $400,000,” have seen gains in their incomes since the Great Recession began six years ago. Median household income is 8% lower than it was in 2007, before the recession.
“About the same number of Americans were employed last month as in December 2007. But during that period, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of Americans working part time who wanted a full-time job jumped to 7.2 million from 4.6 million. Not only are hourly wages stagnating; America’s families want more hours of work than the economy is providing.”
Put simply, while 10% of the people are (slightly) better off, 90% are worse off. There’s clearly something fundamentally wrong. Not only is this issue likely to dominate the next two elections (this year and again in 2016), it’s also going to determine America’s future direction – a declining economy will inevitably mean a declining America.
The rising numbers of homeless people is not due solely to unemployment or under-employment as the study shows but it’s one factor that should be easy to resolve with the right policies.