The federal minimum wage for covered nonexempt employees is $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. The government’s definition of poverty is not tied to an absolute value of how much an individual or family can afford, but is tied to a relative level based on total income received. For example, the poverty level for 2011 was set at $22,350 (total yearly income) for a family of four. Most Americans (58.5%) will spend at least one year below the poverty line at some point between ages 25 and 75. There remains some controversy over whether the official poverty threshold over- or understates poverty.

The average person is expected to spend 30% of their income on housing. So, that means that a family of four must live in accommodations that charge $559 or less for rent per month IF they are living right at the poverty line. But, if a person were to work 5 days a week, for 40 hours, 52 weeks a year at the $7.25 minimum wage, they will earn: $15,080 and thus be far below the poverty level. If this person were to afford housing at the same 30% expected proportion, they would only be able to spend $377 a month on rent. Does anyone know of any place that is that cheap…let alone safe?

And we Americans, myself included, walk by the average homeless person and think, “What did they do to get there.” We have created a system that enslaves people to the dollar, keeps them in poverty, and then ridicules them for being unable to get out of the situation.

One more sobering thought.

In and out of classrooms, sleeping in shelters, shielded by parents, homeless children can seem invisible to society at large. A national study released Monday finds that one in 50 children in America is homeless. They’re sharing housing because of economic hardship, living in motels, cars, abandoned buildings, parks, camping grounds or shelters, or waiting for foster care placement.

“That is something that I don’t think most people intuitively believe to be true,” said Ellen Bassuk, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and president of the National Center on Family Homelessness. The national center last did such a report 10 years ago, and numbers of children without a permanent place to sleep are growing.

In Sacramento County, where debates over homeless issues have hit a pinnacle in recent months, school districts counted more than 6,000 children without stable housing during the last school year, a number that has been rising steadily since 2002.

The national center’s study, “America’s Youngest Outcasts,” shows that California had 292,624 homeless children, the 10th largest population in the nation, during the time of its count, the 2005- 2006 school year. The group counted 1.5 million homeless kids across the country, about 200,000 more than the figure it reported a decade before.

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