Living ON Main Street, USA

Submitted by Jeff Buster on Wed, 09/14/2011 - 15:40.

There is homelessness everywhere - in the US, in Canada, South America, Europe, etc. - and you see cardboard sleep matts and duffles waiting in unlikely spots for their owner's return.    Maybe the safest place for a homeless person to leave their few possesions during the day - is tucked behind a column right on the public sidewalk!  

Here in the United States it is difficult for any of us to determine with confidence whether the homelessness problem is getting worse - holding steady - or getting better....the confusion seems to be what the government intends.  I spent a little time on the US Census web site but I haven't found the data showing the change in homelessness since the 2000 census. 

This is the language from the Census regarding where/how homeless are counted:


People who cannot determine a usual residence - Counted where they are staying on Thursday, April 1, 2010 (Census Day).

People at soup kitchens and regularly scheduled mobile food vans - Counted at the residence where they live and sleep most of the time. If they do not have a place they live and sleep most of the time, they are counted at the soup kitchen or mobile food van location where they are on Thursday, April 1, 2010 (Census Day).

People at targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations - Counted at the outdoor location where people experiencing homelessness stay without paying."


Using my own eyes when I visit public areas with which I have long term familiarity - I believe that homelessness has become considerably more serious - more intersections have panhandlers in the median, more public benches are made "sleep proof", and access to some public benches as seen in the image below have even been fenced off to prevent the homeless from moving in.


When the building was designed and constructed in the late 1960s, each bay on the outside of the brutalist building was softened by a large curved public bench.  Office workers ate their lunches on the benches.  People waited for their ride to arrive or their appointment.

About a year and a half ago, the chain link fence went up.

What a contrast with the passage of  40 years!   

Like a dead canary in a coal mine, the fenced off benches tell us that we have a huge problem - our civic safety net has failed - miserably.

Too many homeless people.  Urine.  Beer cans.  Duffles and blankets. 


In the USA, that's how we do it.

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