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

By Joan M. Crouse | Go to book overview

3
Immediate Impact
of the Depression:
The State Reacts, 1929-33

THE stock market crash of 1929 and the resulting economic crisis took the unsuspecting playful America of the Roaring Twenties by surprise. Comforting words from Washington assured the stunned population that the crisis was only temporary and that the antidote to this present inconvenience was a large dose of national confidence. It was not long, however, before the signs of a long economic pall became apparent. Jobs were lost and new ones were frighteningly scarce; savings dwindled and then ran out; mortgages were foreclosed and family homes were lost; the hospitality of friends and relatives was strained by weeks and then months of distress. One by one individuals and then entire families were taking to the road leaving behind home, roots, and community ties in search of new positions and new lives elsewhere. As their numbers increased from a handful here and there to a steadily swelling body of wandering homeless persons, the deep-rooted nature of the depression became all that much harder to ignore and confidence became less and less possible.

It was difficult to determine in the early years of the depression exactly how many homeless there were in America, and even more difficult to estimate how many of these were nonresidents or transient. Early signs indicated that there was a "new army of transients moving across the country." A formal attempt to provide a reliable

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