Tue, Dec 27, 2011 - Page 9 News List

Another face of the US recession: homeless children

Since 2007, child homelessness has jumped by 38 percent in the US, a rise that one expert attributes to the country’s recession and a surge in the number of extremely poor families headed by women

By Tom Brown  /  Reuters, MIAMI

Little Aeisha in Miami got visibly upset as her mother spoke tearfully about the wear and tear on her children amid her struggles with a bad economy, severe depression, diabetes and chronic foot problems stemming from torn ligaments.

Touray sounded like an Occupy protester herself, as she complained about bailout money for banks, but not people.

“You get treated like an animal because you’re homeless,” said Touray, who said she lives on just US$583 a month in child support after going through a divorce last year.

Her parents, who live separately in Atlanta and Chicago, are also homeless.

“Just because I’m homeless it doesn’t mean that I was like nothing yesterday,” said Touray, who said four small businesses she owned in Atlanta only went bust because of the recession.

She also complained about the tone-deafness of many politicians, saying they were doing nothing to ease the unemployment and inequality that have come to dominate the national conversation.

“I’m living the real deal,” Touray said. “I don’t need for somebody to come up here and tell me what the economy’s doing. They [the politicians] need to get out here and see these children, see these parents.”

Across the country in Los Angeles, a journalist came across Luis Martinez, 34. A single parent, he lives with his three children at the Union Rescue Mission on a trash-strewn city block where homeless men and women stand vigil over plastic shopping carts.

However, the shelter is an improvement over the time when Martinez passed nights on the LA subway with his children, riding the rails to nowhere.

A junior high school dropout who became unemployed after he injured his back on construction site job about six years ago, Martinez spoke proudly about how well he said his kids were doing in school.

They have a laptop computer, which they use to help do homework through free wireless connections at McDonalds and Starbucks. They also have an Xbox video game system and Martinez, who wears a necklace that says “My Kids First,” has a cellphone to stay in touch with family and potential employers.

“I mean, I’m homeless, but not hopeless,” Martinez said.

“[It] gets easier as you go,” said Jesse, Martinez’s eight-year-old son.

Highlighting the shrinking middle class in the US, a reporter found Tracy and Elizabeth Burger and their eight-year-old son, Dylan. The Burgers said they once earned almost US$100,000 a year combined, but saw their middle-class lifestyle evaporate when Tracy lost his job in audiovisual system sales.

Unable to pay rent, they were evicted from their apartment in early 2009 and had to move into a motel. In March, they moved into a cramped converted garage at Elizabeth’s mother’s house in Los Angeles.

Elizabeth, a former medical assistant, said she has less than six weeks left on her unemployment insurance and was anxiously watching last week’s standoff in Congress over extending those payments, along with the payroll tax cut for 160 million Americans.

A bill to extend the unemployment insurance and the payroll tax cut by two months was finally signed late last week.

The congressional debate highlighted the partisan bickering that has made this a tumultuous year in US politics, while throwing Washington’s ability to make sound economic policy into doubt.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top