The Homeless Transient in the Great Depression: New York State, 1929-1941

By Joan M. Crouse | Go to book overview

6
The Federal Transient Program
In New York State I,
1933-35

THE estimates were in. The January 1933 census had shown the total number of the nation's homeless to be approximately 1.5 million, a vast majority of whom were transients. Both public and private agencies had by this time shown that they could not cope with this burden in addition to the ever-increasing needs of their own local unemployed. Three years of confusion and misery in trying to adapt antiquated poor laws to the severe modern crisis had once and for all proven the inadequacy of the old system. A federal program was needed, and this was precisely what social workers, public officials, businessmen, and university professors converged on Washington, D.C., that same January to tell Congress. They came with graphs, charts, statistics and personal stories to testify before the Senate Committee on Manufactures then conducting hearings on Senate Bill 5121 (S5121). The Cutting Bill, so named after its sponsor Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico, proposed to amend the Emergency Relief and Construction Act of 1932 to provide for the allocation of $15 million in federal funds to relieve distress among unemployed and needy transients. 1 The sheer volume of the problem, increasing at a rate proportionate to the depletion of the meager resources available, was of major concern to the witnesses. In California, it was reported, transients were entering the state on the average of twelve hundred per

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