Homeless Women and Children: The Question of Poverty
Much of our attention these days is centered on changes that are critical in the labor market and what this nation wi l l look like in the year 2000. We are presently debating what roles the public and private sectors wi l l play in regard to our economic position internationally while we neglect social conditions which have a profound effect on the country. It is difficult to measure social stability and equality, but we have a crisis in this country that greatly affects
women and children. Forty percent of white children live in poverty as opposed to 60% of Black children. The fastest growing poverty group in the U . S . are women and children, and they constitute the new wave of homeless persons today. In Chicago, there are an estimated 25,000 homeless persons and 2,500 available beds; Boston has between 14,000-17,000 homeless persons, of whom many are intact families (husband, wife, and children). Homelessness has affected people who have worked their entire lives, for example, auto and steel employees. Detroit mayor Coleman Young asked the governor to declare his city a disaster area. Poverty as an independent factor is arguably the single most important determinant of health status in the United States. Low birth weight, malnutrition and housing are a few examples of how poverty can affect the lives of family members. One of the most profound experiences of the poor is when they are forced out of their homes and communities, and thus lose their identity and recognition. Homeless people are totally alone in their experiences and much of their frustration is directed toward family members. Feelings of guilt, rage, and denial arc common. This chapter wil l address poverty in the context of homeless women and children.