Poverty & Homelessness – Written June 2004:


In the big cities such as LA and SF you do see a lot of homeless, quite a few

near the beach where we stayed in LA – probably even more in San Francisco.

I know they are common in Sydney, especially towards Central Railway where I

used to work, but Narrelle and I are pretty sure we're correct in saying they were

much more numerous in LA and San Fran.


You don't see them much in the smaller cities.  We have been told that the number in

Cali is inflated by the fact that the homeless tend to gravitate there from other regions.

Better to be homeless in balmy Santa Monica than in Chicago or Detroit, I guess...
Also, the culture in California is more liberal and tolerant than some places.  I think in

more conservative areas the local government makes life quite difficult for them.  The

other thing that struck us as different is that many do not seem intoxicated or drug

affected.  In Sydney, if you see a homeless person, they're usually hammered.  Maybe

it's easier for a person to become homeless here as the welfare system is not as

comprehensive, so you get a 'better class of derelict' - I don't know, but for whatever

reason many seem quite lucid, and you could have a sensible conversation with them.


Speaking of the poor, USA Today has a big article this morning (June 8, 2004) on the
plight of the ‘working poor.’  Seems many millions of Americans are below or barely

above the poverty line, despite working full-time.  This has been covered recently in

various forums.


It does seem that, contrary to some overseas opinion, America's most fundamental

problems are in fact acknowledged:  books are written about them, the issue debated in

the mainstream press etc.  Some say the problem is more that the political process has

become corrupted and controlled by the vested interests and is unable to resolve these

sorts of issues.  The apathy of the people we're talking about doesn't help either – they

rarely vote - so it's a circular problem.


We should acknowledge that Australia has its fair share of poor people too – many

thousands live in caravan (trailer) parks or public housing and subsist for years on

‘the dole’, punctuated perhaps with periods of low-paid casual work now and again.

That said, it’s probably true that there is a greater difference between rich and poor in

the US than there is at home.