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Millennium Post

Homeless in ‘land of milk and honey’

America is not the ‘land of milk and honey’ it is often thought to be. Crouching behind pillars to shield from the cold or squeezed at the entrance of shuttered shop fronts with their belongings tucked in a bundle and a receptacle kept for alms, over 6,00,000 people across US cities are homeless and subsist on the streets or in abandoned areas with some states pushing them into camps and others offering them a one-way ticket back ‘home’.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, there were 6,33,782 people, or 20 in every 10,000 people, experiencing homelessness on any given night in January 2012, largely unchanged from the year before. About a quarter of them were children, one-eighth military veterans and some four in 10 disabled unable to work, in the richest nation on the planet, according to its latest report on The State of Homelessness in America 2013. A majority of people identified as homeless were staying in emergency shelters or transitional housing, but 38 per cent were unsheltered, living on the streets, or in cars, abandoned buildings, or other places not intended for human habitation, it said.

Many sit with outstretched arms outside subway stations or strum away on guitars drawing attention to their plight as sympathetic onlookers drop money into an open guitar cover. More than 48 million people were living in poverty – with a household income of less than $23,550 for a family of four – in 2011, almost five per cent more than in the previous year, with median household income decreasing nationally by 1.3 per cent from $51,144 to $50,502.

With job losses after the worst recession in decades increasing the national poverty rate from 15.3 per cent to 15.9 per cent in 2011, the Obama administration has this year announced grants totalling $1.557 billion for over 7,750 local homeless housing and service programmes. These are part of Obama’s Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness announced in 2010 to put the country on a path to end chronic homelessness by 2015 and to end homelessness among children, family, and youth by 2020.
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