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Homelessness Down, But Poverty Up

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Any sign of improvement in the state of homelessness in these United States is welcome news, and the National Alliance To End Homelessness is out with both evidence of progress, and reason for hope, by way of its 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.

According to the NAEH, homelessness in America has declined 4 percent in just one year, and has now declined 9.2 percent since 2007. This decrease in homelessness has been corroborated by data from the U.S. Department of Education.

Advocates for those less fortunate are understandably excited by the report, but I would caution that these findings -- as encouraging as they are -- have little effect on the much larger overall problem that is poverty. Moving a small percentage of the homeless into housing hasn't suddenly elevated them above the poverty line... And though homelessness may be down, poverty is up.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, poverty is "the state of one who lacks a usual or socially acceptable amount of money or material possessions". I would further describe poverty as human misery under which social problems such as homelessness, hunger, and the lack of necessities of life exist.

The recently-released good news about a downward trend in homelessness is overshadowed by continuing bad news about this nation's escalating problem with poverty. The prevalence of poverty is evidenced by a seemingly daily flow of discouraging statistics.

On November 6, Susan Heavey of Reuters provided a sobering update that places 47 million people in poverty -- per figures from the U.S. Census Bureau. That's 15 percent of Americans.

And on November 2, Mark Rank expressed the belief in his New York Times article that poverty affects a wider swath of the population than most people think -- the conventional wisdom holding that poverty is a problem mostly endured by urban neighborhoods. Rank suggests that poverty plagues all of America, including suburban and rural areas -- with "only approximately 10 percent of those in poverty living in poor urban neighborhoods".

There would seem to be no quick fix to America's poverty problem, but there is a quick way to seriously address it. The U.S. Senate has a proposal before it which would make the federal minimum wage more akin to a living wage. The proposal, which faces stiff opposition, would increase the federal minimum wage over three years from the present $7.25 per hour to $10 per hour...

According to a Gallup poll, 76 percent of Americans favor upping the federal minimum wage. If only Congress would acquiesce to the wishes of the electorate, we could perhaps be on the way to a day when a headline reads, "Homelessness Down -- And So Is Poverty".