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Cowboy George enjoys a vacation
as thousands of New Yorkers are...

Left out on the street

August 17, 2001 | Page 1

GEORGE W. BUSH has spent nearly 42 percent of his time as president on or en route to vacations. So he decided to spend the whole month of August...on vacation at his luxurious ranch in Crawford, Texas.

"I love to go walking out there, seeing the cows," President Moron told reporters. "Occasionally, they talk to me, being the good listener that I am."

Nice work if you can get it. But a record number of New Yorkers don't face the dilemma of which house to vacation in. Because they don't have even one home.

In July, New York City counted 6,252 families--including almost 12,000 children--housed in temporary beds in city shelters. That was an all-time record for the month--and a 30 percent increase from a year earlier.

"There's so many people out here," Kevin Williams told Socialist Worker, "and over the last 10 years, it's gotten a lot worse." Kevin was homeless himself for 10 years. He now works collecting donations for the United Homeless Organization. "There's not really that much help for you these days," Kevin said. "A lot of the drop-in centers lost funding, and there's a lot less soup kitchens."

The roots of the city's homelessness crisis are easy to see. Over the 1990s, the Wall Street boom drove rents higher and higher, while workers' wages stagnated. One-quarter of New York's renters--an incredible 525,000 households--now pay more than half of their income in rent.

Not even a full-time job is a guarantee against homelessness. "If you have a minimum wage job, rent is $600 to $800 a month for a one-bedroom apartment," said Kevin. "At $5.15 an hour, you can't afford that."

According to the New York Coalition for the Homeless, the number of people with full-time jobs applying for space in shelters is up dramatically. "I tried to make ends meet for years," Virginia told Socialist Worker, "but it just isn't possible."

New York's homelessness crisis isn't unique. Washington, D.C., Chicago, and Oakland, Calif., reported similar increases in families seeking space in shelters, according to an article in the New York Times.

And this is only one aspect of the disaster produced by Washington's bipartisan policies of slashing welfare and affordable housing while handing out tax cuts to the rich.

What a sick system that lines the pockets of the obscenely wealthy while huge numbers of people have to struggle desperately to get by. We need to fight for an alternative--one that puts people before profits.

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