Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Still No Room at the Inn

The Damm family: Crissy, six; Jesse, four; their mother, Linda, 27, a former nursing-home aide; and their stepfather, Dean, 33, an ex-trucker.
According to the U.S. Conference of Mayors, more than one third of the nation's homeless population-and its fastest growing segment-consists of families with children. The reason for this is twofold. At the same time as the number of families living below the poverty line has increased because of unemployment and cuts in welfare benefits, the availability of low-cost housing has dropped because of widespread urban gentrification and a radical decline in the federal budget for subsidized housing. Once a family is homeless, they are likely to encounter discrimination when they seek emergency shelter. In Los Angeles, for example, only 51 of the county's 215 shelters accept families, and of those only 16 accept families with fathers. Though homeless individuals often live outside-on sidewalks, on park benches, beneath freeway overpasses-homeless families are more likely to be hidden from the public eye, living marginally from night to night in shelters, welfare hotels and cars. The Damms, who moved recently to California from Colorado, are such a family. LIFE spent seven days with the Damms during the fifth week in which they had no place to call home.

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