Homelessness in the United States started before The Great Depression, but it became much more common by 1929, the official start of The Great Depression.
During President Herbert Hoover’s reign, shanty towns, known as Hoovervilles, built by the homeless in his name mushroomed. Soon there were hundreds of them across the US in the 1930s, as the progressive policies continued under President FDR. Clustered close to soup kitchens, Hoovervilles were a collection of tents and small shacks on empty land.
Hoovervilles were not officially recognized by the authorities, and people were booted from private land. But as the homeless problem started getting out of hand, authorities looked the other way out of necessity.
In Bucks County, PA, the homeless problem was officially recognized in the late 80s.
As the homeless problem in Bucks rose to near epidemic proportions authorities sometimes looked the other way when people camped out on private and public land. But in the past year, they started clamping down on unofficial camping. The latest major raid was at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Levittown, PA. http://levittownnow.com/2016/04/30/county-officials-begin-to-clear-homeless-camps/
Part of the problem is the homeless themselves. Sometimes they create problems. For instance, there was a homeless encampment outside a Walmart, where a property owner let the homeless use electrical outlets just to charge their cell phones. But some of them abused the privilege. Some of them even ripped off copper tubing, most likely the druggies in the group. Consequently, they were booted.
The homeless are a microcosm of society, where some of them reflect the bad behavior of today’s society. As such, individuals in the homeless community should at least be given a chance.
Many of the homeless in Bucks County work and are decent people who play by the rules and many of them work, but don’t have enough money for a place or just can’t find one. The only time they break them, is when they have nowhere else to go and camp on private and public land. Public land, by the way, belongs to all of us.
My appeals to use public or vacant property in Bucks County, which is sufficient to accommodate the homeless, fell on deaf ears. When I proposed to a county commissioner an idea to use county land to set up official encampments, in the tradition of the homestead act of 1862, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=31 where the homeless would build and maintain the encampment, she poo-pooed it and said that this would jeopardize their chances of getting into government assisted housing, which takes between one to two years to get into.
Back in the Great Depression, some men who lived in Hoovervilles who had construction skills built their houses out of stone. Given some land, today’s homeless can do the same thing. One homeless friend excitedly told me his idea to build a wooden shelter that would house a few tents, with a the wood burning stove in the middle and a vent for the stove. This never materialized, as the heat was on the homeless in the woods where he wanted to build it.
During the depression, the government set up shelters for the homeless, but they soon got filled up, especially in California, where they were hard to find. The Joads, the characters in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, illustrated this. The Joads briefly settled in a Hooverville (not quite a Holiday Inn) in California. The government shelters in Bucks County, PA likewise can’t keep up with the flow of the homeless, in large part to the explosion of recovery houses, some 100 of them in Levittown.
The economic causes of homelessness in modern America started in the late 19th century. Progressivism started as a spark in the late 1890s, when federal expenditures increased. Between Presidents Woodrow Wilson and FDR, the Republicans were progressives and the Democrats were conservatives. During that time, congress had more say that did the Presidents. The Republican party laid the intellectual groundwork for the growth of government in the 20th century.
The Republicans passed the Baton to the Democrats, and except when we had a reprieve with Truman and Kennedy, the Democrats have carried the progressive torch, burning the whole country.
The homeless are the canary in the mine. For those of you in Doylestown, this means that, as a canary is an advance warning for methane or carbon in a coal mine because the canary would die before the levels of the poisonous gases are hazardous to humans, homelessness is an early indicator of an unhealthy economy.
As I’ve said in a previous blog, a nation’s prosperity and its morality are intricately linked.
One of the obstacles for creating more shelter for the homeless is hobophobia. Even though the homeless are just a reflection of today’s society, the bad behavior of some homeless members prompts some people to think twice before helping them. The efforts concerned people who want to create more shelter for the homeless are stonewalled by the Bucks County government, fueled by intolerant, judgmental people.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12
For further reading (quite lengthy) http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/cato-journal/1996/11/cj16n2-2.pdf
And of course, the Bible.