Homeless in the USA

A third of the homeless people in America are over 50. I’m one of them.

I ran across this interesting article today, an interview with a 66 year old homeless woman.  She talks about how it happened, the fear, the sleeplessness, the medical ramifications, the social isolation, and the importance of her dog.

Homelessness is something that touched my heart when I went on my bike trip a few months ago. (I wrote about it here.) I was biking and camping so I got a feel for what it is like to be living outdoors and even more, I got to see how the homeless are treated. People didn’t want to talk with me and when I approached them, I saw the fear in their eyes. How sad!

I talked with anyone I could and I also found that almost everyone was a bit older, maybe 40’s or more, and the over 60 age group was well represented. I didn’t meet anyone who seemed to have a mental illness. I did hear many heartbreaking stories though. When you are that far down I think it’s almost impossible to get up again without help.

On a related subject, I recently read a book $2 a Day, about people living on only $2 a day. I remember one woman who applied for 100 jobs and didn’t even get an interview. These people live in very bad conditions, often don’t have enough to eat, and how do you get a job when you have little education, no decent clothes, bad teeth, and skin of the wrong color?

We are so fortunate if we have a roof over our heads, food in the kitchen, and people who care about us!

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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21 Responses to Homeless in the USA

  1. lifesgoodpanama says:

    Kris This is a widget for the Go Fund Me campaign I set up for a friend. Would you consider posting it to your blog? /Widgetflex.swf Thanks Lyn

    On Sat, Oct 1, 2016 at 4:13 PM, The Panama Adventure wrote:

    > Kris Cunningham posted: “A third of the homeless people in America are > over 50. I’m one of them. I ran across this interesting article today, an > interview with a 66 year old homeless woman. She talks about how it > happened, the fear, the sleeplessness, the medical ramifications,” >

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    This posting touched me. I understand better. TU

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Laureen says:

    I was talking to a Mexico National recently on the subject, and she said there are not that many that are homeless, but many people that live below the poverty level in MX. On the other end of the scale, there are many well off people that live in Guadalajara that have weekend homes in the Lake Chapala area. When I went to Costco, I did not see many gringos, but lots of Mexico Nationals with discretionary income if one measures it by how much and what is in the shopping carts.
    When I think of the US, knowing that the most common reason people declare bankruptcy is due to medical costs, I wonder how much of the homeless population falls in that category. I do know a large percentage of the homeless are veterans, and a lot of vets fall thru he cracks as far as medical care at VA hospitals. Mexico and Canada both have national health care plans, and I think it is time for the US to do the same.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That sounds a lot like here. There are very poor people and others much better off. The poor may have shacks by the side of the road built of found materials, but at least they have a roof overhead.

      I have read that about bankruptcy from medical costs, and the majority of them have insurance. This is just wrong and I agree we should have national health care, which should also cover dental and mental health care. Many other countries have done it and we could too.

      There is a big effort to end homelessness for veterans, and according to the link posted by Jim and Nena they are making a lot of progress. Others are working to end homelessness in general but there is so much more to be done. My daughter works for the Sonoma County (CA) government. At night they open their large parking lot to the homeless in cars and RV’s, and every night it is full to overflowing. The very high cost of housing in the area is part of the problem. She recently shared a resignation letter from a teacher who could no longer afford housing, and positions in her department are remaining open for the same reason. If people with good jobs can’t afford housing what happens to people with less education working in minimum wage jobs, or who can’t find jobs at all? Anyway, i could run on but enough for the moment.

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  4. jim and nena says:

    Hola Kris,
    Homelessness is a sad issue for a country as rich as the USA. My belief is that lack of family is a big factor.
    Nena’s sister and two brothers got their permanent visas and came to the US 10 years ago after waiting 12 years for visa approval. Nena’s older brother and his wife found work and became self-sufficient in a few weeks with Nena’s help in finding jobs. They found an apartment they could afford and I helped them find a used car to give all the sibs transportation. All of them worked 2 or 3 part-time jobs to support themselves. Nena’s sister is 77 and still working 2 jobs. Her income allows her to qualify for low income housing assistance. She is studying for her US citizenship test later this year.
    The help we gave all of them was not very great but it was enough to allow them to advance their situation to the point of keeping a roof over their heads and even manage to send some money home to their families. Without family, there is little hope.
    There are jobs out there and it takes surprisingly little assistance to get folks on their feet who want to be self-sufficient. I spoke to a guy who collects trash that we put out front once a month for the city to collect. He cruises the neighborhoods a week earlier than the city and collects discarded appliances, metal scrap, and anything flea market worthy. I helped him load some junk from my pile and turns out he is a Cuba refugee from years ago. He collects and sells enough junk to support his family. When I asked about the publicized lack of jobs, he just laughed and said he had more work than he could do. I asked (all in Spanish as his English was limited) if he was getting government assistance and he said he didn’t like government help as that was why he left Cuba; too much government control.
    jim

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes I agree! Everyone I talked to was estranged from family, didn’t have any, or didn’t have anyone with the ability to help. I don’t think anyone wants to take government assistance if there is another way, and even if they have to it isn’t much. The lady in the article and people in the book said food stamps maybe last for a week, and then how do you eat for the rest of the month? A lady I talked to in Washington state needed low income housing, but there was none available and it didn’t look like there would be in the foreseeable future. She was living in a camper that was falling apart, and she was in her 70’s and not healthy enough to work. Even Nena’s sister at 77, working two jobs? I hope she likes working because she is well past the age when she should be allowed to slow down. That’s one good thing about Panama. Family seems to provide a better safety net, and people generally tend to stay put so families aren’t separated by distance. I worked with many elderly in Florida and very few of them had family nearby, and many of them couldn’t count on family even from afar for various reasons.

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  5. After the Dot.com era collapsed in San Francisco, there were 500,000 people out of work in a six-month period, I was one of them. Being too old at 59 and overqualified, I was working 5 jobs at minimum wage, 7 days and 6 nights a week to keep up my $1,000 per month child support, pay rent on a “room” @ $500 per month, gas for the car to get to the jobs and if anything was left over eat 2 meals a day. My greatest fear was losing one job and being homeless as a result. That is the closet I came, but it is a real fear to stare that possibility in the face.

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    • You were probably lucky to even have those jobs because all those 500,000 people were all looking for any job they could find. Yes it is a very scary thing and it could happen to any of us. If one can’t find work or becomes unable to work, how long does it take to slip over the edge? We rode out the recession in Florida and saw so much suffering in the area, people losing jobs (and like you said, in your 50’s and 60’s its almost impossible to find another), people losing savings, upside down in their houses…. Yes, it could be any of us.

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  6. rambalajunglelodge says:

    Many homeless people are also veterans. It isn’t right. In Florida in one area they actually outlawed feeding of homeless people in one neighborhood. ignorance knows no bounds.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sarasota wasn’t friendly to homeless people for sure. They removed all the downtown park benches so the homeless couldn’t hang out, and complained that they were using the computers in the library. Nobody wanted to look at homeless people so the city did everything it could to run them out. I don’t know if there was much help available for them either.

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  7. Robert&Helen says:

    Very different in the European Union. Health care for a couple with minimum wage is about $ 135 p.m. Minimum wage per year is about $ 23,500 NET after taxes, social welfare and social security pension. Social security pension is about net after taxes 18.500 p. year. I am talking about The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, the US could learn a thing or two from that system. I think a lot of the homeless problem is no affordable housing and a minimum wage that is too low for survival.

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      • The USA has a steadily fraying safety net which one political party is intent on dismantling further, in the name of “cutting taxes” whereas the European Union has had a well established and well functioning system that protects its citizens . Yes taxes are higher, but the comforts and security provided through them are considerable. And no, ‘we’ – i.e., the USA will not learn from Europe since at least one half of the country labels European governments as ‘Socialist’ as if that were a dirty word, like ‘liberal’ . But enough politics.

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        • I would be happy to pay more taxes to have universal health care and no one living on the street. But true, the powers that be don’t want any dang socialist liberals messing up their profits.

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  8. That’s very sad that there are so many people over 50. I am involved with a charity working with the homeless in Australia. I see many with mental illness and also a growing number women over 50. I have just written a blog re homeless in Australia “The Mentally Ill Homeless Need Care – has our society lost it’s soul ?”

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    • Wow, it sounds like there are a lot of similarities between the US and Australia. Many homeless in the US are also mentally ill, but by no means all of them. You wrote a powerful post, and I was interested to read some of the others too. I wish you much success in your efforts!

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  9. Great post! I volunteer at a homeless centre and unfortunately there, many of the people struggle with mental health issues. I can imagine the stories you must’ve heard!

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    • I heard mostly unemployment problems, estrangement from family, inadequate retirement income, along with mental and physical health problems. Thank you for helping out some of these folks, and for taking the time to comment here 🙂

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