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Hundreds of Thousands Are `Hidden Homeless'

Oct. 18, 2008 (EIRNS)—The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) does not recognize hundreds of thousands of the victims of mortgage foreclosures as "homeless," the National Policy and Advocacy Council on Homelessness (NPACH) told Inter Press Service this week. The HUD definition of homelessness "does not include children and families who have lost their homes but are temporarily staying in motels or with other people because other shelter is not available or appropriate," the NPACH reported in a recent document. Despite the homeless disaster, the U.S. government has not counted the numbers since 2005, National Coalition for the Homeless (NCFTH) head Michael Stoops told IPS. Even back then, he said, the government admitted that "44% of the nation's homeless are unsheltered."

Tent cities have sprung up in or near Reno, Los Angeles, Chattanooga, Columbus, St. Petersburg, Seattle, and Portland, Stoops told IPS. They began to grow four years ago, and now 60% of local and state homeless coalitions report steady growth of homelessness since the foreclosures became critical in 2007. Disasters such as hurricanes have added to homelessness.

Jeremy Rosen, head of NPACH, said that some 600,000 children and youth are among the "hidden homeless," members of families who lost homes due to foreclosures or family crisis, but not recognized by HUD since they move around in temporary shelters. "They become the 'hidden homeless', moving around from place to place—sleeping in cars, on couches, sometimes in shelters, sometimes with friends and sometimes with family. Unfortunately, our country chooses to deny this reality and doesn't define many of these people as homeless," Rosen told IPS. "More than 60% of the homeless students identified by public schools are ineligible for HUD Homeless Assistance," the NPACH's report states.

Stoops reported that a "month ago, over 900,000 homes were foreclosed and some of the people concerned will wind up homeless." Laid off Wall St. bankers could soon be joining their ranks, he noted.

Cook County (Illinois) Sheriff Tom Dart had announced Oct. 14 that he would be suspending all foreclosure evictions, because unprotected renters were being evicted if their landlord lost the property. However, Dart said he will resume foreclosures Oct. 20, since new regulations now give renters 120 days to find new housing.