Rude Awakenings: What the Homeless Crisis Tells Us

Rude Awakenings: What the Homeless Crisis Tells Us

Rude Awakenings: What the Homeless Crisis Tells Us

Rude Awakenings: What the Homeless Crisis Tells Us

Excerpt

I did not know what I would find when I began to explore homelessness. So little reported in the press made sense. I first noticed stories of "millions" of Americans without homes in the early months of Ronald Reagan's presidency, stories that often ascribed the problem to his policies. The effects of governmental action usually take longer than a few months to manifest themselves, so I was skeptical that the new president could have played an important role in any increase in homelessness. And the numbers of homeless claimed--3 million--seemed unlikely, though there was no denying that the heart-wrenching problem of people living in the streets was increasingly visible in the early 1980s.

I had worked for twenty years in the administration of federal antipoverty programs, from the day President Lyndon Johnson declared "unconditional war on poverty" until the day President Reagan closed down the war's flagship agency, where I was employed. In 1960, freshly graduated from the University of California with a degree in sociology, I joined the federal government with answers to poverty and many other social problems. At Berkeley I had been a political activist: a card-carrying member of the Socialist party of Eugene Debs, Norman Thomas, and Michael Harrington and a leader in the peace and civil rights movements. I carried these values through my years as a program official and was sympathetic to those who were sounding alarms about the homeless.

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