Poverty and homelessness are impacting more people than we care to know about. This past weekend, a teacher related to me that she keeps two things at her desk. One is a bowl of apples and oranges for those students who come to class hungry. She was surprised that one was an Asian-American whose family is struggling to make ends meet.
The other is a small amount of change in her upper desk drawer. Once she was apologetically asked by a student, who qualified for the subsidized lunches, if she could give him 30 cents to purchase lunch. “I was amazed that this kid did not even have 30 cents for his subsidized luncheon meal. There are three, sometimes four, of these kids in my class of 30 students. They are all in the lower performance levels of my general science class. Kids cannot learn when they are hungry. The hunger distracts. It really shortens their attention span.”
Our conversation continued to the recent event in San Jose where some 100 homeless persons were moved from an encampment site which was under the flight approach path to San Jose Mineta International Airport. This encampment was also visible from the high-rise windows of those tall buildings off The Alameda and Santa Clara Avenues. One homeless individual, a middle aged woman who had lost her job, asked “Where do I go?”
Indeed, where do the poor and homeless go? One could imagine the County Social Services Agency and others, such as the Sacred Heart Community Center, as being a place where these homeless poverty impacted persons could go.
In addition, a Hispanic graduate student phoned me to solicit a donation for the Women’s Shelter at Stanford which a group of students had formed. Their proposed budget was $20,000. One thing I was told was that some homeless women with children are driving to Palo Alto/Stanford area for overnight sleeping in their car because they felt the streets and community were much safer. A few years ago, the Opportunity Center was built in Palo Alto to accommodate homeless women with kids, but it is always full and has a waiting list.
These are the indications that this society and its economy is not working correctly. Silicon Valley has some of the wealthiest individuals in the nation. In fact, President Obama will be coming here, to raise funds for the 2014 Democratic Party Congressional campaign effort to regain control of House of Representatives and retain a majority in the Senate. It is easy to blame Congress for the current socio-economic challenges which the poor, homeless, and unemployed face daily.
Organizations such as InnVision, Sacred Heart Community Center (Alma/Market Street, San Jose), and Second Harvest Food Bank are all being challenged by the increased need for food and services by the poor which come to them for help. A recent radio news program revealed that Second Harvest Food Bank was distributing enough food for 600,000 meals each month. That means that about 200,000 individuals are being assisted (one of nine persons in this county). What can be done quickly? Contribute funds to these non-profits. The ultra-wealthy can contribute a sizeable tax-deductible contribution right now. The rest of us can contribute what is possible. But there are other concerns.
The homeless and poor can be helped most by American voters getting very angry about the decision-making stalemates in the U.S. Congress, where all programs are first written up as legislation. A bipartisan coalition of Democrats and Republicans must begin to make decisions which support putting workers back to work. Enact programs to rebuild the infrastructure. Reform the tax code to ensure that all pay a fair share of taxes. And, if America is to remain an international superpower, then education reform and a comprehensive immigration reform must be enacted as soon as possible.
The data available reveals that if the American consumer economy can be re-invigorated, then all will benefit from tax revenues which currently are too low to help the poor and homeless.
Representative Paul Ryan (R, Wisconsin) recently presented a budget plan which would repeal the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare), cut back on Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security programs. All these impact the elderly, the uninsured, homeless and poor. No plan was presented to cut back on the many tax loopholes which, when eliminated, would be a step towards balancing the national budget.
If poverty and homelessness are to be reduced, the American consumer economy must be re-established.