Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Two Snapshots

I came across two articles yesterday which disheartened me. Both deal with the Midwest, that great area known as "The Heartland," and both provide vivid pictures of the state of our union.

The first has to do Minnesota and a new kind of homelessness problem.

Homelessness is rising in Twin Cities suburbs, officials say. It's more pervasive in Anoka County than in Hennepin County, but harder to detect. Suburban panhandlers are rare. And some suburban homeless adults have steady jobs, but couldn't avoid foreclosures. ...

Homelessness has quadrupled over four years in Washington County -- from 93 in 2008 to 381 in January. In Dakota County, where the homeless population exceeds 1,000 for the first time, it's grown 20 percent the past year -- from 841 in 2011 to 1,013 this year.

Unemployment, rising costs and mental illness all are factors. ...

Anoka County found 1,463 homeless individuals on Jan. 25, when the county's Continuum of Care group, which works to end homelessness, conducted an annual count of the homeless.

The same night, agencies in other counties, including Hennepin, Dakota, Washington, Carver and Scott, did the same. Hennepin County counted 3,690 homeless people.

These counts are considered unscientific and conservative by those who conduct them, but show one other alarming trait -- an increase in the number of homeless adolescents.
[Emphasis added]

Two things shocked me. The first is the presence of homelessness in suburbia. I think most of us have been lulled into believing that the condition is endemic only to the city and only to the poorest of the poor. Clearly both are wrong. People who ten years ago had a house and a job and a future have been undercut by the foul economy and the housing bubble so that now they are sleeping in their cars (if they are fortunate to still have them), on friends' couches, or in the streets.

The second is the enormous number of young people suddenly without homes. Even assuming access to a shelter which would meet some of their needs, the stability of a home is gone, which complicates any kind of education program those kids should be engaged in.

Again, this is happening in the suburbs, in the heartland.

The second snapshot is from Kansas and has to do with health care and its overall effect.

Pundits and politicians like to say the United States has the best health care in the world. If so, it’s not showing up in how long we live, a new study suggests.

While life expectancies in some parts of the U.S. match those of the healthiest nations on earth, in vast swaths of this country preschoolers can expect to live no longer than their peers in some of the poorest and most strife-ridden parts of the world.

That holds true in the Kansas City area, where life expectancies in Johnson County match those of Switzerland and Sweden, while those in Wyandotte County are more like what’s found in Libya or Sri Lanka. Jackson County life expectancies compare to those in Mexico and Uruguay, and Clay County’s to those in Cuba. ...

Infant mortality rates in Kansas City’s poorest ZIP codes were five times higher than in its wealthiest, according to the Health Department’s data.

High unemployment, low rates of homeownership and low educational attainment all contribute to poor health, Kansas City Health Department director Rex Archer said.

“It’s neighborhood conditions,” Archer said. “These dynamics make a difference. All these combined stressors increase infectious diseases, chronic diseases, intentional and unintentional injuries.”
[Emphasis added]

I'm sure there are a few other factors not mentioned in the cited portion which play into it, like environmental conditions and lack of access to affordable healthcare, especially preventative healthcare. But the important point is that the system just doesn't work for those without a whole boatload of money, and that shows up in the long run.

That there are places in this country with declining life expectancies based solely on money and location is shameful. And that some of those places are located in areas outside the megalopolis coasts is eye-opening.

May Day! May Day! May Day!

Labels: , , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home