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U.N. Criticizes U.S. Homeless Situation

Posted on Nov 12, 2009

Advocate groups believe at least 3 million people in the U.S. were homeless at one time over the past year.

After years of being denied entry by the Bush administration, a special rapporteur for the U.N. has finally completed a tour of housing in the U.S. and the diagnosis isn’t good. The special investigator accused the government of ignoring the “invisible” problem of homelessness while shelling out billions to banks.

The Guardian:

A United Nations special investigator who was blocked from visiting the US by the Bush administration has accused the American government of pouring billions of dollars into rescuing banks and big business while treating as “invisible” a deepening homeless crisis.

Raquel Rolnik, the UN special rapporteur for the right to adequate housing, who has just completed a seven-city tour of America, said it was shameful that a country as wealthy as the US was not spending more money on lifting its citizens out of homelessness and substandard, overcrowded housing. 

“The housing crisis is invisible for many in the US,” she said. “I learned through this visit that real affordable housing and poverty is something that hasn’t been dealt with as an issue. Even if we talk about the financial crisis and government stepping in in order to promote economic recovery, there is no such help for the homeless.”

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By DHFabian, November 16, 2009 at 7:09 am Link to this comment

melpol: Your comment about loners sounds like classic paranoia; that’s an observation and concern, not a criticism.

You wrote, “We must all learn to be nosey.  A well financed outreach program must be developed by the government.  Loners must be visited and often
questioned. The wrong answer will set off an alarm leading to their arrest.” That’s probably one of the most disturbing posts I’ve ever read.

I’d be interested in hearing how you would react to
such a scenario. After all, how much do people—much less, government officials—know about what you do after work, behind closed doors? Should they not check it out?  Perhaps question your family and friends?  Maybe consider putting you under surveillance?

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By MarthaA, November 14, 2009 at 6:38 pm Link to this comment

DHFabian, November 12 at 11:21pm,

Contrary to what genteel lumpen-proletariat Conservative EXTREMIST Right-Wingers—Republicans say, I agree with your post.  Now, AFDC is gone, so the destruction of our country has to be placed exactly where it belongs——on CORPORATE WELFARE that squanders and has squandered the economy of the United States and the world’s economies as the dollar continues to drop.

Corporate power destroyed welfare for the woman with dependent children whose husband deserted her or is disabled, while CORPORATE WELFARE for corporations even have bonuses to issue—excessive squandering of the livelihood, and the future livelihood, of the 70% MAJORITY Common Population for multiple generations upon multiple generations.

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By no mans land, November 13, 2009 at 12:52 pm Link to this comment


Great post. If you want your government to work for the people, you must first free your government.

There is only one cycle in this country, the creation and seizure of wealth. Wealth =  Land (aka Reseoruces) + Labor. Debt is the ownership of future labor/individual wealth. Wealth does not disappear in recessions or depressions. It changes owners.

Money is created from debt, which is used to purchase Land and Labor to create assets while debt accumulates throughout the entire nation. That same debt that was used to create the money is then used to seize the assets we just built and to own our wealth (labor) through recession or a depression by turning us all into renters instaed of owners.

The system works exactly as designed. History is replete with the games of bankers, but somehow we still give them free reign over our economy. As you said, those with the money, do the lobbying. However, those who control the currency control the very machinations of the country. In other words, they have total and complete leverage over our political system.

To free our government so it can break this cycle, we must put the creation of currency back in the hands of government and get money working for the people again. Anything short of that is 24k bullshit.

1) Reform campaign finance by allowing only publicly funded elections and require free and equal air time for candidates.

2) Change tightly controlled election laws to allow third parties into the system.

3) Elect populist monetary reformers without dogma for or against a political party.

4) Investigate and end Federal Reserve Inc. Seize all assets found to have been acquired through fraudulent banking practices and use them to alleviate the burdens of debt throughout the nation.

5) Implement debt-free currency creation that is controlled by a recently liberated democratic government.

6) Form either true national banks, or regulate the private ones until they get so pissed that they take their ball and go home.

7) Apply all interest gleaned from government lending to replace taxation or supllement taxation that is returned to the people in the form of new and despeately needed social benefits.

8) Make natural resources “common” resources and end private ownership of the earth. Manage the resources in a manner that is healthy and environmentally sustainable.

9)Consider labor to be 1/2 owners of all wealth creation while continuing to allow reasonable private ownership of business and assets.

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By NYCartist, November 13, 2009 at 12:50 pm Link to this comment

PS I forgot to say, because CFS/ME is the ps disease (short term, cognitive memory glitch,perhaps):

  I don’t get out much, but I carry a lightweight autofocus camera.  I compose the photo - happily, the camera does the rest, most of the time it comes out.

  Because I am a wheelchair user, low to the ground, and most of the homeless people I see are sitting on the ground, I am not very threatening.  I stop and speak with people who seem receptive to being spoken with.  The stories range from veterans to people who are unemployed.  Seeing women also.
Many more than in recent years.  (For 8 years, some years ago, I was totally horizontal and only got out to go to a hospital clinic 3 times a year, so I can’t tell about those years, but it’s worse - more on the street in the last years.  That includes the 2 I was totally homebound before April, 2009.)

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By NYCartist, November 13, 2009 at 12:46 pm Link to this comment

I have several photos of homeless people in Manhattan and I’ve been using them in art. The photo with this story and the ones on the Guardian show people a lot cleaner than one usually can be living on the street.

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2009 at 12:22 pm Link to this comment

Faith, I agree, may I suggest we, as in you and I, are not culpable, least maybe I should only speak for myself?

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By faith, November 13, 2009 at 11:38 am Link to this comment

America’s homeless plight is a disgrace.  Travel to europe, and frankly, you do
not see people living on the streets with their little shopping carts of

Yet, we subsidize and provide billions of tax dollars for Wall Street, banking,
pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies.  Because they have the
dollars to lobby Congress.  It is truly shameful.  S

So while the fat cats stuff their children’s trust funds, the rest of us can accept
that our children go off to illicit wars in order to make defense contractors and
congress members rich.  Our children come home from war anticipating to put
on artificial limbs for the rest of their lives when all they ever intended was to
get a job and an education and entering the military was the only way they
could do it.

We are an immoral people on the whole.  I am not discussing religion.  I am
discussing merely an observation that we allow, as a whole, our political
representatives to get by with giving our billions to industry and turn away
from seeing our hungry, our homeless, our poor.  We need to seriously rethink
our approach to governance and elections.

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By Folktruther, November 13, 2009 at 8:44 am Link to this comment

“But hey, like the old imperial Romans and Brits, while it’s left it should at least be fun and/or profitable.  We may be the only empire that destroyed itself from the inside out of sheer, flaming incompetence and too much politics.”

I do not find a million homeless children and and the country’s children on food stamps fun and profitable, and neither do they, or do most of the American people. I kinw that Ziofascists like yourself hate the UN for making rude comments about Israel’s brutality toward the Palestinians, but they serve a usefual purpose in pointing out the barbarism that exists in the both the US and Israel.

All imperialisms are destroyed from within when the economic inequality increases to mostrous proportions.  The inequality requries wars and domestic violence to maintain it, and irrationality, delusion and moral depravity like yours to justify it.  As the US sinks into barbarism with the increasing misery and torment of the population, and US remains a violent danger to the whole world, the ruling class and those who serve it will ride it all the way downhill for “fun and profit.”

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By no mans land, November 13, 2009 at 7:57 am Link to this comment


The reason no one wants to call it a depression is because language is not only important for keeping this system afloat, it’s vital to control and social compliance. Calling it a depression undermines confidence in the system and if that confidence erodes, a lot more people than us begin questioning it from the top down.

More importantly, though, language shapes how we think about our world. Imagine if “Natural Resources” were called “Common Resources.” The implication would be that resources cannot be owned by any one person because they belong to all of us. If resources come from collective ownership, then the products that are derived from them would be partially owned by the people. The only exception to this of course, is the labor it takes to produce them.

Another important linguisitical fraud is that labor is not likened to individual wealth that is invested in an effort or product. Instead, we call it “employment,” which carries a connotation that people must be “employed” as tool might be employed to solve a problem or produce a desired outcome. When we use a hammer, we don’t “invest” the hammer, we “employ” the hammer.  If we referred to work as an individual “investment,” all of a sudden the value that labor rises because it suggests partial ownership of the final product.

I would also argue that we often defer to industry insiders for advice, not because they intend to solve a problem for the rest of us, but because they have a command of industry jargon which is fundamentally misleading. For example, take the word “security.” Webster’s provides the insight here:

“2 a : something given, deposited, or pledged to make certain the fulfillment of an obligation.”

“3 : an instrument of investment in the form of a document (as a stock certificate or bond) providing evidence of its ownership.”

If banks told the people they were bundling and selling packages of “debt,” people might still have inveseted in them, but the public would have had a far clearer picture of what they were doing. In fact, the term “debt” itself is nothing more than the ownership of future labor, or individual wealth.

So, to get back to your original question. They dangled the word depression in front of us, which invokes extreme fear and prompts people to take immediate action. Yet, when the dust settles and they’ve successfully siphoned the public and private wealth, they notch the language down to words like “recession,” “downturn,” or “slow down.” Wealth (land/resources + labor) doesn’t disappear in a recession or depression. It merely moves to another owner. A more accurate, just, and useful term for all of this is to call it a “seizure” of public and private wealth. When I hear the language soften like that, all I hear is the money monopoly telling us to get back to work to begin producing more assets for them to take in the next “downturn.”

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By Leefeller, November 13, 2009 at 4:13 am Link to this comment

Seems one has handed over the keys to a drunk without considering the drunk being drunk.

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By Ouroborus, November 13, 2009 at 3:57 am Link to this comment

I laughed; when I read that, I laughed. Why, you may
Because it’s the single most telling statement about
how far the U.S. has gone towards it’s departure from
being the leading third world country.
If ever there was a clarion call to action; that was

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By C.Curtis.Dillon, November 13, 2009 at 3:14 am Link to this comment

It is amazing how Clinton shows up, over and over, in all these disasters.  He was sucking up to the corporations like no other president and did whatever they wanted.  He was so desperate to move the Dems to the center and to appear “corporate friendly’.  Well, he got his wish and America is done because of it.  What a whore he was!

I’ve grown very tired of this American Exceptionalism crap which is just a cover for greed and a total lack of compassion.  If this country really wants to blow its horn about being exceptional, it should be striving to show the world how a true democracy and compassionate country works.  There should never be homelessness or starvation or uninsured in this country.  It is a true embarrassment that we place greed and unbridled wealth about all else.  The UN is right to call us out on this.  But I will wager that Hillary and her state department will call the report biased and demand it be changed.  I hope this woman sticks to her guns and tells all of them where to stick it!

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By Outraged, November 13, 2009 at 1:12 am Link to this comment

Re: DHFabian

An excellent post.

Quote: “How this benefited the general population: Because welfare was an option, bad employers couldn’t get workers, and employers had to compete for workers by offering decent wages and working conditions. Workers could, when necessary, go on strike without risking their homes and families.  Our workfare policies today ensure an available stock of super-cheap/no workers’ rights labor, a replacement workforce that has been a powerful tool for suppressing wages and wiping out unions.”

Absolutely.  In fact, one of the biggest plagues in America today are “temp agencies” and their accomplices corporate america.  The despicable crooks won’t even hire a person for $10.00hr or LESS outrightly!  How low can you get?

As you say, there are so many beneficial factors to society and also to individuals that a strong safety net provides that its value is incalcuable in one sense, yet on its face…. easily qualified.

America is SO STINKIN’ RICH that absolutely free housing should be there for the taking….rich, poor or in-between.  Housing should be a non-issue in a country this overflowing with cash.

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By Sepharad, November 12, 2009 at 10:57 pm Link to this comment

The UN’s record of failed intervention in far worse humanitarian crises than homelessness in the U.S. makes them less qualified to pass judgment on a country that pays a hugely disproportionate of their budget.

Still, Folktruther is right that the American plutocracy could care less about our homeless—much like the Europenans, Middle Easterners, Eastern Europeans and Africans and Maghrebis upper classes who rarely spend 30 seconds a week thinking about their homeless, starving, persecuted, and generally weak and helpless citizens.

What I can’t understand is why we still aren’t admitting we are in a classical Depression, why we still release unemployment statistics that, while appalling, do not reflect the huge number of people who have stopped trying to find jobs that are not there. One day, some bright young anthropologist or historian is going to wonder how and why a country with such a mighty military and such abundant resources was only an empire for a ridiculously short tims before going down in flames. But hey, like the old imperial Romans and Brits, while it’s left it should at least be fun and/or profitable.
We may be the only empire that destroyed itself from the inside out of sheer, flaming incompetence and too much politics.

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By Folktruther, November 12, 2009 at 9:19 pm Link to this comment

Not only that DFabian, but just as Clinton made a succesful assault against welfare and for globalization to help break the unions, Obama is now goig to attack social security, medicare and other “Entitlements” in his next buget in Feburary.

He has already raised the military budget, and refused to increase income taxes on the rich.  In order to reduce the deficit he is now going to help loot the American population, at a time when unemployemnt is already 20+ and rising.

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By DHFabian, November 12, 2009 at 7:21 pm Link to this comment

We DID have the answer and, due to indifference and gullibility, simply threw it away. Welfare.  Yep, that terrible, “failed” program that “trapped people into life-long/generational dependency”.  Or so we were told…

Contrary to all the allegations about high welfare benefits, there was only a short period of time during the 1970s when welfare benefits actually rose up to the poverty line—but it was enough to enable families to remain together through difficult times, and then to move forward. The largest program, AFDC (said to have “broken the budget”, dragging taxpayers into poverty) used a whole 6% of the federal budget. Some 80% of all AFDC families voluntarily quit welfare in under 5 years before “reform”. Welfare served as a lifeline for the seriously ill and disabled while waiting for their Social Security disability aid applications to be processed, a process that can take anywhere from 1 to 5 years. Welfare saved lives, and significantly improved the health of those who fell on hard times. The list of pluses goes on.

How this benefited the general population: Because welfare was an option, bad employers couldn’t get workers, and employers had to compete for workers by offering decent wages and working conditions. Workers could, when necessary, go on strike without risking their homes and families.  Our workfare policies today ensure an available stock of super-cheap/no workers’ rights labor, a replacement workforce that has been a powerful tool for suppressing wages and wiping out unions. While we still say that the US is “the richest nation on Earth,” the wealth is concentrated into the hands of only a few.  It was welfare that enabled the US to say (for a while) that we had the highest overall quality of life out of all nations.

Welfare was, in spite of its warts, a remarkably successful program.  Unfortunately, the money that financed the social safety net was wanted for other things, such as covering the costs of massive annual “tax relief” for corporations and the rich.

We should consider scrapping those policies that brought the US to the precarious position we’re in today, and try reversing course to repair all the damage done to our economy. We should consider renewing those policies and strategies that were so good for the country as a whole. Over the past 12 years (since welfare “reform”), we have seen a stunning decline in the US, in virtually every area of modern life; this is a really good clue that we might be going in the wrong direction.

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By Leefeller, November 12, 2009 at 6:43 pm Link to this comment

You know the homeless thing is not all it is cranked out to be, and I am sure there are some who blame it on the Big Z, some can add the homeless problem with every other problem they can conjure up, from the grassy knoll to the rising sea! 

You guys want a stock tip, invest in shopping carts, also the price of card board may sky rocket too!

Have you heard the Catholic Chruch is upset because Washington DC wants to include soup kiticihens to accept gays if they become homeless, the Chruch has said not on our dime they won’t, so they will shut down their shelters on everyone including the the non gay poor, because they do not want gays to be helped? I may have this all wrong, maybe the Catholic Church wants to pork barrel in pedifiles, and this is only political? Come on the Catholic Chruch against gays?

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By MarthaA, November 12, 2009 at 4:09 pm Link to this comment

Good.  It’s about time. I think that’s a 50% understatement, as there are about 2/3rds as many unemployed now as there was in the Great Depression, where 30% of the population was unemployed and it is going to get worse for the 70% MAJORITY Common Population, so it will behoove the people to learn the difference between the Liberal Left and the Conservative Right and a Democrat and a Republican.  The Right and Republicans, which are the Right, do not ever consider seriously the best interest of the Common Majority, which is the Left, that should be represented by the Democratic Party, NEVER the Republican Party; when the Democratic Party FAILS, the Republican Party will only make it worse.  Thinking there is choice for the Common Population with the Republican Party is just stupid, as Bush I said, “blockhead dummy” stupid.

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By kee, November 12, 2009 at 1:28 pm Link to this comment

Yes, yes, yes! But what do we DO about it? Multi-city marchs would seem to be timely, and there are many thousands of people who would be available to participate without having to take time off from work.

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By johannes, November 12, 2009 at 1:22 pm Link to this comment

I find that the public eye is much to much pointed on people who do great jobs, but they are payed for it so their is nothing of a hero to be find, its a job with risk, but this risk is chosen by this person in all libery, I mean soldiers, police men and say firefighters, it are profesenals, nothing to do with patriotisme or hero’s.

Not see the wood for the trees, thats wath is happening, their are so much patriotic and real Americans, so that the poor and homeless are ignored, people just don’t want to see this people who give a not so nice picture of the land of the free.

And than thinking of so called patriots who have so much, to much, in an democratic country.

Some animals are more equal as other animals say humans.

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By Gmonst, November 12, 2009 at 12:33 pm Link to this comment

We Americans are really a very cold, callous, and selfish people.  If one really objectively looks at Europe and the things they do for their people, its pretty embarrassing.  America has embraced this tough love, you’re on your own mentality.  We call it the Independent American spirit, but its really selfish heartlessness.

I think most Americans are able to callous themselves to the sufferings of others with the idea that its due to personal failings.  We convince ourselves they are trying to rip us off, from the man holding the sign at the onramp, to the person asking for change on the sidewalk.  We harden our hearts, believe the easy belief that its all their fault and deaden our compassion.  We have police chase them from place to place, keep them from sleeping in our parks.  The homeless aren’t even on the radar of political life, they don’t contribute to campaigns, and most can’t vote.  Politicians by and large only care about those that can hurt or help them keep their jobs. I can’t remember the last time I have heard any politician other than Kucinich even mention the homeless. 

This study suggest 3 million homeless at some point in the last year.  That’s one percent of the population.  Truly shameful. Whats even more shameful is that we are still the wealthiest nation on the planet but we are so selfish that we can do practically nothing to combat homelessness.  We can’t even fund safe places for them to camp. We really are a shameful selfish people.  There needs to be a national reassessment of our priorities, a redefining of patriotism away from solely support for the military, to truly taking pride in our country, and protecting all its people.  How can we truly call ourselves the best when our house is rotting around us and our children are going hungry?  Its an embarrassment the speaks to how warped our priorities have become.

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By Folktruther, November 12, 2009 at 12:31 pm Link to this comment

the historical problem is very simple.  The American plutocracy doesn’t give a shit about the American children, particularly if they are non-White.  three million homeless, half on food stamps, and increasing, but kids don’t vote, they don’t buy anything, and they are sometimes noisy, if nourished. Since putting them all in prison is too expensive, let them roam the streets, especially as the homes they had were forfeited to the banks. 

Drugs are good too.

Isn’t this what Freedom&Democracy; has evolved into?  Isn’t this what Free Enterprise is all about?  Three million children homeless and where is the Amerian power system discussing or confounting it?  It’s solution is to prevent the UN or anyone else from investigating it.  While it chastizes other power sysstems for violating Human Rights.

The American version of Human Rights does not include food and shelter.  The UN voted for economic rights 180 to 1, but one country maintained that people do not have a right to food.  Guess which one.

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By melpol, November 12, 2009 at 11:41 am Link to this comment

Uncle Sam loves all Americans. He has invested billions to protect us, and it is
worth the cost. Each life is precious and no person should get hurt. 99% of
violence is committed by loners, and there are millions of them. Some have
flipped and went on a shooting spree. Mentally ill loners are hard to detect
because many have no prior arrest record. Quiet neighbors must be watched for
suspicious activity.  We must all learn to be nosey.  A well financed outreach
program must be developed by the government.  Loners must be visited and often
questioned. The wrong answer will set off an alarm leading to their arrest. A sick
loner in handcuffs is a guarantee that no innocent person will be murdered or

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By no mans land, November 12, 2009 at 11:16 am Link to this comment

She left out all the new homeless vets we’re creating too.

We’re like the abusive father and husband who pretends to be an upstanding idol of the community by accusing everyone else of betrayal.

Oh well. Without good old fashioned American homelessness and pverty, we wouldn’t have colorful names Like “Bootstrap Bill,” Hobo folklore, or wrathful grapes. mmm “character.” makes my tummy full!

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