Making the Discovery: Poverty, Disability and Homelessness in the U.S.A.

IIn Ecuador, as people that share having a disability, we were welcomed and respected. In Ecuador, most people with severe disabilities live on about $200USD/month they receive from the government of Ecuador. In the United States, people on Supplemental Security Income (welfare) receive a little more than $500USD/monthly. In both countries, we see people with disabilities living in poverty and reduced, in many instances, to beggary.

Bill Freeman Because of work with the Census and the World Bank, over the past year we became aware of a growing number of people with disabilities here in the United States that have become conventionally homeless, and have made rational decisions to live in their vehicles, other mobile structures, tents and as squatters in many instances, occupying homes they do not own until they are noticed and put out by the actual owners of property. Such an approach protects our capitalist ethic by reducing many people with disabilities to an impoverished state, from which their complaints will not be heard.

The American Disability Association was a Census Partner to the U.S. Government for both the 2000 and the upcoming 2010 Census. In reviewing our prior work it is apparent that the answers that applied in 2000 are no longer acceptable. This is in large part because of the erosion of a sustainable middle class, with many people no longer able to sustain even the most fundamental basic needs. We are very concerned that the lessons of Katrina, especially as Katrina impacted people with disabilities, are so easily cast aside.

Freeman and Mesenbourg While we do not have concrete deliverables to address the need in our community at this moment, there is no good reason that we should not achieve our hopes and dreams. Even so, the very limited resources of organizations like ours are quickly evaporating, and like after Katrina, we are left without any effective short-term plan.

While we are not able to offer the same advice to our census as before, we do realize, as do they, that our communities are disparately impacted by the Global Economic Crisis and that as a group we deserve more respect than being left behind to fend as best we can. We are absolutely committed to offering policy solutions that support people with disabilities, and we will avoid the appearance that the current administration has done its duty to identify and count every single United States citizen -- even those of us with disabilities -- even during the worst economic disaster of modern times.

Finally, we need the support of people across the Americas in pursuing this work. We have had several occasions to require additional legal support in our mission, and generally our legal staff requires financial support. Please take our appeal to your churches and civic organizations. No one else is doing the sort of continent-wide oversight that our agency does. Because of our work in South America we were able to identify a demographic which needs assistance here in the United States and may be 'off the grid' as to traditional safety net protections during the Global Economic Crisis.

By helping others we have found problems here in the United States that are not adequately being addressed and we want to raise our voice wherever we find inequality. We also need your help.

We welcome the involvement of other media in telling our story. We welcome your donations, through the link below, in support of our work.

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We must not allow anybody to make us feel that we are born to live in poverty and deprivation, we must make it clear: we are going to live in dignity and honor.
-- Martin Luther King
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