Posted by: kbvale | March 26, 2009

Homelessness in the Valley: A Nationally Recognized Epidemic

By Jim Wilson, New York Times

By Jim Wilson, New York Times

“From each according to her/his ability, to each according to his/her need.”

– Karl Marx

How did we get so far from Marx’s ideal vision of society? Currently, with over five empty households per homeless family, it seems silly that we would be experiencing a surge in our homeless population. And yet, the “Shantytowns” popping up all over the Central Valley of California are causing quite a stir that is lacking in political action while shamelessly exposing the members of this vulnerable group to media scrutiny.  A new type of homelessness has emerged, broadening previous definitions of homelessness as simply a matter of mental defect, drug addiction or inability to work. The occupants of the makeshift neighborhoods we see all over the news today are not “chronically homeless.” In fact, most of these working class people had built the overabundance of housing to which they no longer have access. With one eviction happening every 13 seconds, the ranks of the homeless are being expanded by working and middle class families who were once financially secure. All homeless people have enough to worry about without the added judgment of a nationwide audience to their pain, and they deserve more than to be shuttled around through a maze of political promises that fail to recognize or respect their experiences.  With today’s economy and housing market, many workers are being forced closer to the brink of homelessness. It’s time to drop the stigma of homelessness, and recognize that viable solutions are needed before things get worse. Those who have noticed Shantytowns in the Valley need to demand more of a response to this crisis than the more visits from media and politicians. There are adequate and respectful solutions out there, and utilizing them may bring us closer to the egalitarian ideal that Marx envisioned so long ago.

Based on a piece by Gifford Hartmann, “The New Joads: Trying to Survive in the Spectacle-Commodity Society,” as well as recent news articles.



  1. I’m not sure Marx is an appropriate philosophy to quote, since there are so many out there who equate communism with government corruption and lack of freedom. I guess it depends what the aims of the blog posting are. I think there are are plenty of more recent, American social activists whose ideas we can bring to the forefront in times like these that will perhaps be more broadly accepted and create a bit more political feasibility than Marx. For example:

    “In a real sense, all life is interrelated. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the inter-related structure of reality.” -Rev. MLK Jr.

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