Is There Hope in A Hooverville?

Because the government got increasingly more involved in people’s lives during the 1920s and 30s, homelessness increased. We the people turned our decisions over to big government, especially during the reign of Presidents Herbert Hoover and FDR.  

In fact, homeless camps, shanty towns that started cropping up by 1930 were called “Hoovervilles”. Give credit where credit is do. Homelessness started cropping up before the Great Depression, but mushroomed during the 30s, growing during the term of President FDR. 

Government programs didn’t resolve the homeless problem. Like today, people without a home started building their own dwellings.  They used stone, wood from crates, cardboard, scraps of metal – anything they could find.  In D.C, a group of veterans whose VA benefits were delayed, created a Hooverville in 1932. They had hopped trains and came from far away. At one point the government tore the homeless camp down, where up to 15,000 people lived.   

In 1930 in St. Louis, Mo, the largest Hooverville was created through private philanthropy. This racially integrated community had an unofficial major, churches, and other social institutions. In 1936, the Works Progress Administration, an agency of FDR’s New Raw Deal, allocated funds for “slum clearance” with the idea that the government would provide housing for the homeless. 

Today in Bucks County, PA, county government thinks it would resolve the problem through assisted housing. A few years back I pitched my idea to Bucks County Commissioner Diane Marseglia, who is running for reelection in November, that county public land be set aside to create a homeless village, similar to the St. Louis camp and the more recent Dignity Village in Portland, Oregon. 

The commissioner poo-pooed the idea. She said that this kind of thing would make the homeless too comfortable and would not want to avoid going into government assisted housing. This philosophy that creates dependency on government was the case championed decades ago, as evident in President LBJ’s alleged Great Society. In A More Perfect Union; What We the People Can Do to Reclaim Our Constitutional Liberties, Ben Carson MD writes “…our society is still plagued by people who propose and enforce policies that encourage the descendants of the freedmen to accept a state of social dependency. People in such a state tend to be much easier to manipulate than people who are independent and well educated. Therefore, with a few perks and promises, their votes can be cultivated, creating a significant power base. Manipulative people convince them that others are responsible for their misery and that they should be grateful for the aid being provided by their saviors.” 

It’s everyday people, driven by faith in God, not career politicians, who can create a more perfect union. 

The role of government, everyday people and the church is illustrated in: 

The Homeless Versus The Government

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.

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, 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)

And of course, the Bible.

Once I Built a Railroad

“Once I built a railroad, I made it run
Made it race against time
Once I built a railroad, now it’s done
Brother, can you spare a dime”

–Popular song during The Great Depression

The song was written in 1930, a year after the stock market crashed and ushered in the depression.

The stock market crashed is an oversimplified explanation of  the cause of the Great Depression. It’s not like a train crash. Instead, it was the result of progressive government overreach that started with President Herbert Hoover, whose claim to fame is the Hooverville developments – shanty towns built by homeless people, most of whom were out of work because of wrong headed government policy.

President FDR, who lied about reversing Hoover’s policies, became more of a progressive than Hoover. He was Hoover on steroids! Enter President Harry Truman, who took more of a free market approach than did Hoover or Roosevelt, and our country prospered.

During the depression, there was great immorality and hate. We became a police state, not a whole lot different than Nazi Germany and The Soviet Union, but on a smaller scale. For example, a business owner was arrested for charging customers 35 cents for an item instead of the government mandated 40 cents. Government storm troopers regularly went into businesses to keep them in line with the government.

As a result of government policies, “normal” people became hobos, today called homeless. They hopped freight trains and camped out. Railroad cops went after them, much like the authorities go after today’s homeless. The cops sometimes beat the hobos, who had become poor because Uncle Sam confiscated a lot of money, which was used to build the railroad.

What created the monster that wreaked havoc on our nation back then? This is not a rhetorical question. The monster was a product of an immoral, godless nation. This was also the case in Germany at the time.

In the late 19th and early 20th century, a toxic movement known as modernism crept into our society. Modernism rejects God and moral absolutes. Modernism also rejects realism.

Transforming society, from commerce to philosophy was the goal of modernism. It was reflected in literature. Take Virginia Woolf. Please! She was one of the foremost modernists of the 20th century, an upper class elitist whose first novel was published in 1915. In college, I was required to read her To the Lighthouse, published in 1927. It is an incoherent rant, mainly against men. The novel spewed out a nihilistic view of life.

Modernism started polluting the church.  In 1929 Princeton Theological Seminary, after years of sound, Biblical teaching,  “was reorganized under modernist influences.”

Almost immediately after the seminary went the way of the modernist world, Westminster Theological Seminary was established in Philadelphia, PA (actually right outside the Philly border), whose goal is to adhere to the fidelity of scripture.

In time, our nation was blessed with more of a true, Christian influence. The Great Depression was officially over in 1941, and gradually life in our country got better. It was a more peaceful time. Families stayed and prayed together. As was the case in the 19th century, most churches taught the truth of God. People went to these churches and read the Bible and Christian authors such as C.S. Lewis.

Christianity had the upper hand on our society by the 1950s. But, alas, the Blue Meanies don’t completely go away. Between 1955-1956, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg wrote his nihilistic poem Howl, which is essentially an extremely long run on sentence. Howl became the hippies national anthem.

I, like Allen Ginsberg, have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness.

Although the counter culture pointed out some valid problems, its remedy is worse than the disease.

Today, the counter culture has permeated our country. In fact, now it is run by 60’s radicals, one who is the president and one who is running for president, to name two. I heard at least one praising FDR and wanting to be just like him.

We need to take our country back! No matter what your present state, even if you are homeless, find a Bible preaching church, and check what is preached by studying the Bible yourself. Go to Bible studies. Pray. If we all did this, we’d have a better society!

“Trouble pursues the sinner, but the righteous are rewarded with good things.”

-Proverbs 13:21

The 411 on Homelessness

On a warm humid night recently, I woke up about 2 a.m. Unable to get back to sleep, I took a walk to 7-11 to get some milk. On route, I saw someone sleeping on the sidewalk by Dunkin Donuts, which was closed. It looked like the person was sleeping on top of blankets or pads. It was too warm to be undercover. The zonked out person didn’t even stir as I passed by.

If I would have witnessed this about 2 ½ years ago, before I started associating with the homeless in lower Bucks County, PA, I would have had a different reaction. Back then I would have just thought I saw a bum, perhaps sleeping off a drunk.

This may have been the case. Maybe not. Now I have a better understanding of homelessness than I did before. People are homeless for different reasons. One size does not fit all.

On that recent warm humid night, the thought that the sidewalk sleeper was sleeping off a drunk didn’t even enter my mind. I was just seeing someone who didn’t have a dwelling to lay his head.

The economy is one reason people become homeless. Many people simply lose jobs.

“Ah yes, seems we’ve been here before”, to quote W.C. Fields. Homelessness ran rampant during The Great Depression. Progressive rule caused and prolonged the depression. President Herbert Hoover was a progresssive and the depression started on his watch. Shanty towns, built by homeless people, were called Hoovervilles in his honor. FDR compounded and extended the depression with his New Raw Deal.

We pulled out of the depression after WWII, not because of the war but because we started implementing free market capitalism. Our society also became more moral, returning to the Christian faith.

But starting in the 60’s, progressivism reared it’s ugly head again. We also became less moral, turning away from God.

So here we are in 2016, where we have continued on a downward spiral and have become an Obama Nation.

The homeless community is just a reflection of today’s society, some of whose members have the same issues as other communities. In some cases, people’s irresponsible actions caused them to be homeless. Recently, a formerly homeless man said he acknowledged that his actions caused him to be homeless.  He then started out on a new foot, looked to God, and moved upwards.

People can change — if they are receptive to allowing people to help them help themselves. I’ve been trying to help a homeless woman who has cancer. She continues to smoke, consumes too much caffeine, which dehydrates her, and drinks too much alcohol, which kills her liver, especially on an empty stomach. Rather than limiting caffeine and alcohol (a little red wine with a meal is beneficial) and eating more, she does the opposite. She doesn’t want to end up in a nursing home, but she is putting herself there by her irresponsible behavior.

I’m a great believer in personal responsibility.

Progressivism absolves people of responsibility, as does much of modern psychology. I heard someone associated with the Salvation Army, who is in the mental health industry, say about a child molester, “it’s not his fault.” Wrong! It’s sin.

A healthy economy and morality go hand in hand. An immoral society cannot prosper.  A Christian cannot be a progressive, someone who is on the road, the wrong one, to socialism. Expressio Unius Est Exclusio Alterius, a Latin term that means “the expression of one thing is the exclusion of the other”, like fire and water, applies here.

“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”

2nd Chronicles 7:14