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

By Joan M. Crouse | Go to book overview

8
The Federal Transient
Program Assessed

As the Federal Transient Program evolved, people wanted to know how many were being cared for, how much it was costing, and what sort of people these transients were anyway. By the time that the program was liquidated in 1935, these questions became more urgent because now the people are asking, the people of the states and localities, were the ones who had to face the problem -- alone.

The question of how many transients were actually in need was a perplexing one in the early 1930s. Everyone had his own estimate. According to Anderson's 1933 testimony before the Cutting Hearings, estimates ran as high as two to three million homeless. The figure most commonly referred to, however, was that derived from the NCCTH January 1933 census. According to that admittedly imprecise tally, the number of dislocated people in the United States was estimated to be 1.5 million. It was virtually impossible to determine how many of this number were transient as opposed to the local homeless. With the establishment of a federal program for transients specifically, and the govenment's insistence on careful record keeping, a much clearer picture of the overall problem emerged. Table 9 reflects the final statistical overview of the program as compiled by FERA. (See Table 9, pages 184 and 185.) According to the official figures, the peak number of persons under care in federal facilities at one specified time was reached in February 1935 when 300,460 individuals were so cared for: 36,106 families, 155,519 unattached men, and 5,004 unattached women were included in this record breaking number. WPA researcher John Webb recorded a con

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