Many reckon they understand the accumulation of life stresses hurting those who live below or in close proximity to the poverty line. Poverty and suicide intersect. Poverty and incarceration intersect. Incarceration and homelessness intersect. The layers of stresses and the sense of wellbeing intersect. A pat on the shoulder is often not enough. Words alone can for some be a slap in the face. Assisting someone to improve their circumstances or helping them in their journey to provide for their family vitally matters. This may keep a family steady or save a life. This is not quite the world we live in.
Seven out of ten of the world’s people live below $10 a day. That people are being lifted out of poverty at a rate where poverty is being reduced around the world is a horrendous lie. However let us glance at the United States of America, often held up by western societies as a benchmark of a successful nation society.
On average each day 123 Americans suicide.
Extreme poverty is a beating endured by a significant proportion of Americans.
The USA, this year and last year will each report around 50,000 suicides, with 2016 reporting 45,000 suicides. The USA’s suicide rate has increased by 25 per cent since the beginning of the century.
The number of America’s homeless people grow. We are sold all sorts of portrayals of what is being done by one American city after another for the homeless, how they are ending homelessness, but the homeless toll across America is increasing. Corralling the homeless into short term tenement existences, shipping container sized homes should not be sold as ending homelessness.
The number of the USA’s homeless people increased in the 1980s as the Ronald Reagan administration reduced public housing and social services. During this period the USA went from a quarter million street homeless to more than a half million street homeless.
Tragically, the prison population increased at record pace.
Presently, the USA has more than a million Americans street present homeless. The homeless experience each year touches millions of Americans, with an estimated three and a half million Americans for at least several days each year experiencing street present homelessness.
The American travesties include the fact that there are more vacant dwellings than there are homeless Americans, and include the increasing criminalising of the homeless.
There are no human rights in the traps and squats, in the alley ways of the empty streets of the night. There is no social justice vocabulary for the homeless.
One in 46 of America’s children will experience homelessness each year.
Nearly one per cent of the USA’s total population is behind bars – presently jailed. More than 2.4 million people jailed. On average 6,575 Americans are jailed each day. A further three per cent of the USA’s total population is before the criminal justice system. That’s another near five million people.
The US Bureau of Justice reports that one in 110 Americans is presently jailed. One in 45 Americans is either on probation or paroled. The USA accounts for 4.4 per cent of the world’s population but it has in its jails a quarter of the world’s prisoners.
Poverty alleviation is the way forward to reducing homelessness, incarceration and suicide. It is not happening and will not happen in our lifetimes. The grim reality is much will get worse despite all the good news stories.
Last year more than two million Americans were evicted from their homes. The Eviction Lab estimates that 2.3 million Americans were evicted – on average 2,461 people evicted daily.
In Richmond, Virginia, one in 9 renters faced eviction. The USA is home to 120 million renters, to 2.4 million prisoners, to nearly 5 million more people before the justice systems, to millions of people houseless and more than a million street present homeless, to tens of millions living below the poverty line, to half the American population directly or indirectly affected by poverty, to 123 suicides daily.
Poverty is the issue of our times.