We are nearly a year into Donald Trump’s presidency, and the economic numbers continue to look quite good. On Monday, we learned that U.S. retail sales during the holiday season are projected to be way up compared to 2016. Yes, there are all sorts of economic red flags popping up all over the place, and I write about them regularly. And without a doubt, 2017 has been one of the worst years for brick and mortar retail stores in a very long time. But when something good happens we should acknowledge that too, and many are giving President Trump credit for the fact that retail sales are projected to be up 4.9 percent this holiday season compared to last year…
Despite thousands of store closings this year, Americans supplied a final flurry of spending to give retailers their best holiday season sales since 2011, figures released Tuesday show.
U.S. year-end holiday retail sales rose 4.9% compared to the same period last year, a welcome gift to U.S. retailers amid new signs of consumer confidence.
Of course this doesn’t mean that things have completely turned around for the retail industry. We still absolutely shattered the all-time record for store closings in a single year, and the final number is going to be somewhere right around 7,000. The following comes from CNBC…
A larger-than-average slew of retail bankruptcies and stores being shuttered rocked the industry this year, making headlines and dragging even some of the better-performing companies such as Home Depot, TJ Maxx and Costco down with the dismal news.
So far in 2017, 6,985 store closure announcements have been made, according to a tracker from FGRT (formerly Fung Global Retail & Technology). That’s up more than 200 percent from a year ago, based on the firm’s findings.
More specifically, the number of store closings is up 229 percent compared to last year.
And actually, earlier this month we got news that Toys R US has filed for bankruptcy protection and could soon close as many as 200 stores…
It’s hardly fun and games for the toy industry this holiday season with the bankruptcy of Toys ‘R’ Us hurting the fortunes of toymakers Mattel (MAT) and Hasbro (HAS). The sector’s prospects aren’t expected to improve anytime soon.
The fact that retail sales are up so much during this holiday season may slow the retail apocalypse, but it certainly will not end it.
We have got so much work to do to turn the economy around, but at least we have taken a few small steps in the right direction. The recent tax bill that Congress passed was one of those small steps, but there is still so, so much more that needs to be accomplished.
If the economy is doing just fine, then why is homelessness at levels not seen “since the Great Depression” in major cities all over the country? If the U.S. economy was actually in good shape, we would expect that the number of people that are homeless would be going down or at least stabilizing. Instead, we have a growing national crisis on our hands. In fact, within the past two years “at least 10 cities or municipal regions in California, Oregon and Washington” have declared a state of emergency because the number of homeless is growing so rapidly.
Things are particularly bad in southern California, and this year the Midnight Mission will literally be feeding a small army of people that have nowhere to sleep at night…
Thanksgiving meals will be served to thousands of homeless and near-homeless individuals today on Skid Row and in Pasadena and Canoga Park amid calls for donations and volunteers for the rest of the year.
The Midnight Mission will serve Thanksgiving brunch to nearly 2,500 homeless and near-homeless men, women and children, according to Georgia Berkovich, its director of public affairs.
Overall, the Midnight Mission serves more than a million meals a year, and Berkovich says that homelessness hasn’t been this bad in southern California “since the Great Depression”…
Berkovich said the group has been serving nearly 1 million meals a year each year since 2013.
“We haven’t seen numbers like this since the Great Depression,” she said.
And of course the official numbers confirm what Berkovich is claiming. According to an article published earlier this year, the number of homeless people living in Los Angeles County has never been higher…
The number of homeless people in Los Angeles has jumped to a new record, as city officials grapple with a humanitarian crisis of proportions remarkable for a modern American metropolis.
Municipal leaders said that a recent count over several nights found 55,188 homeless people living in a survey region comprising most of Los Angeles County, up more than 25% from last year.
If the California economy is truly doing well, then why is this happening?
We see the same thing happening when we look at the east coast. Just check out these numbers from New York City…
In recent years the number of homeless people has grown. Whereas rents increased by 18% between 2005 and 2015, incomes rose by 5%. When Rudy Giuliani entered City Hall in 1994, 24,000 people lived in shelters. About 31,000 lived in them when Mike Bloomberg became mayor in 2002. When Bill de Blasio entered City Hall in 2014, 51,500 did. The number of homeless people now in shelters is around 63,000.
For New York, this is the highest that the homeless population has been since the Great Depression, and city leaders are trying to come up with a solution.
Housing prices are soaring here thanks to the tech industry, but the boom comes with a consequence: A surge in homelessness marked by 400 unauthorized tent camps in parks, under bridges, on freeway medians and along busy sidewalks. The liberal city is trying to figure out what to do.
Are you noticing a theme?
Homelessness is at epidemic levels all over the U.S., and this crisis is getting worse with each passing day. Some communities are trying to care for their growing homeless populations, but others are simply trying to force them to go somewhere else. They are doing this by essentially making it illegal to be homeless. In some cities it is now a crime to engage in “public camping”, to “block a walkway” or to create any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation”. These laws specifically target the homeless, and they are very cruel.
Many of us tend to picture the homeless as mostly lazy older men that don’t want to work and that instead want to drink or do drugs all day.
But the truth is that women and children make up a significant percentage of the homeless. In fact, the number of homeless children in our country has increased by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.
And there are thousands upon thousands of military veterans that are homeless. For example, a 34-year-old man named Johnny that served in the Marine Corps recently used his last 20 dollars to buy fuel for a woman that had run out of gas and was stranded along I-95 in Miami…
Pulled over on the side of I-95, McClure, 27, was approached by a homeless man named Johnny. She was apprehensive at first, but Johnny told her to get back into her car and to lock the doors while he walked to get her help. He went to a nearby gas station, used his last $20 fill a can and brought it back to fill up her car.
Grateful, but without a dollar to repay him, McClure promised she would come back with something.
In the weeks since, she’s returned to the spot along I-95 where Johnny stays with cash, snacks and Wawa gift cards. Each time she’s stopped by with her boyfriend, Mark D’Amico, they’ve learned a bit more about Johnny’s story, and become humbled by his gratitude.
Deciding that they wanted to do even more for Johnny, they started a GoFundMe page for him and have since raised approximately $250,000.
So it looks like there is going to be a happy ending to Johnny’s story, but the truth is that more people are falling into homelessness with each passing day.
A record number of store closures — 6,735 — have already been announced this year. That’s more than triple the tally for 2016, according to Fung Global Retail and Technology, a retail think tank.
And there have been 620 bankruptcies in the sector so far this year, according to BankruptcyData.com, up 31% from the same period last year. Prominent names such as Toys R Us, Gymboree, Payless Shoes and RadioShack have all filed this year, and Sears Holdings (SHLD), which owns both the iconic Sears and Kmart chains, has warned there is “substantial doubt” it can remain in business.
Sadly, analysts are projecting that the number of store closings could be as high as 9,000 next year.
Yes, there are some areas of the country that are doing well right now, but there are many others that are not.
Let us always remember to have compassion on those that are struggling, because someday we may be the ones that end up needing some help.
Should we make homelessness against the law and simply throw all homeless people into prison so that we don’t have to deal with them? Incredibly, this is actually starting to happen in dozens of major cities all across the United States. It may be difficult to believe, but in many large urban areas today, if you are found guilty of “public camping” you can be taken directly to jail. In some cities, activities such as “blocking a walkway” or creating any sort of “temporary structure for human habitation” are also considered to be serious crimes. And there are some communities that have even made it illegal to feed the homeless without an official permit. Unfortunately, as the U.S. economy continues to slow down the number of homeless people will continue to grow, and so this is a crisis that is only going to grow in size and scope.
Of course the goal of many of these laws is to get the homeless to go somewhere else. But as these laws start to multiply all across the nation, pretty soon there won’t be too many places left where it is actually legal to be homeless.
One city that is being highly criticized for passing extremely draconian laws is Houston. In that city it is actually illegal for the homeless to use any sort of material to shield themselves from the wind, the rain and the cold…
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is taking a similar approach—his anti-encampment ordinance makes it illegal to use “fabric, metal, cardboard, or other materials as a tent or temporary structure for human habitation.” This ensures that the Houstonian homeless are vulnerable not just to the elements, but also to the constant threat of the police. Officials cite one of the most common justifications for crackdowns on the homeless: neighborhood safety (a more socially acceptable way of talking about the not-in-my-backyard mentality).
With all of the other problems that we are facing as a nation, it stuns me that there are politicians that would spend their time dreaming up such sick and twisted laws.
According to one news report, the homeless in Houston are now officially banned from doing all of the following things…
1. They can’t block a sidewalk, stand in a roadway median or block a building doorway. (AKA they can’t panhandle).
2. They also can’t do any of these things — blocking walkways — under state law that already existed.
3. They can’t sleep in tents, boxes or any other makeshift shelter on public property.
4. They also can’t have heating devices.
5. They can’t carry around belongings that take up space more than three feet long, three feet wide, three feet tall.
6. People can’t spontaneously feed more than five homeless people without a permit.
If I was a homeless person in Houston, I would definitely be looking to get out of there.
But where are they going to go?
Things are almost as bad in Dallas. In fact, it is being reported that the police in Dallas “issued over 11,000 citations for sleeping in public from January 2012 to November 2015.”
When you break that number down, it comes to 323 citations per month.
Of course some people have tried to challenge these types of laws in court, but most of the challenges have been unsuccessful. For example, just check out what recently happened in Denver…
Three people who were contesting Denver’s urban-camping ban were found guilty on Wednesday, April 5, at the Lindsey-Flanigan courthouse. The defendants — Jerry Burton, Randy Russell and Terese Howard — were determined to have unlawfully camped on November 28, 2016, and to have interfered with police operations at one location. All three were sentenced with court-ordered probation for one year and between twenty and forty hours of community service.
The case challenged Denver’s unauthorized-camping ordinance, which has been divisive ever since Denver City Council approved it in 2012.
Since the courts are generally upholding these laws, this has just emboldened more communities to adopt anti-homelessness ordinances. According to one report, dozens of major cities have now passed such laws…
City-wide bans on public camping (PDF) have increased by 69 percent throughout the United States. What used to be seen as an annoyance is now prohibited, forcing fines or jail time on those who certainly can’t afford it. The only nationwide nonprofit devoted to studying this, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, has been tracking these changes since 2006. Their findings? There are a scary number of laws passed that ironically make it costly to be homeless.
For example, in 33 of the 100 U.S. cities they studied, it’s illegal to publicly camp. In 18, it’s illegal to sleep in public. Panhandling is illegal in 27 cities.
In 39 cities, it’s illegal to live in vehicles.
As I have warned repeatedly, we are seeing hearts grow cold all around us. Instead of doing everything that they can to try to help those in need, communities are trying to make them go some place else, and those that try to feed and help the homeless are being harshly penalized.
Sadly, all of this comes at a time when homelessness is on the rise all over America. In a previous article I pointed out that in New York City the number of homeless people recently hit a brand new all-time high, and things have gotten so bad in Los Angeles that the L.A. City Council has formally requested that Governor Jerry Brown declare a state of emergency.
We tend to think of the homeless as bearded old men with drinking problems, but the truth is that many of the homeless are children.
In fact, the number of homeless children in the United States has risen by about 60 percent since the end of the last recession.
If this is how we are going to treat some of the most vulnerable members of our society while things are still relatively stable, how are we going to be treating one another when the economy completely collapses?
If you want to be a “Good Samaritan” to the homeless in your community, you might want to check and see if it is legal first. All over the country, cities are passing laws that make it illegal to feed and shelter the homeless. For example, in this article you will read about a church in Maryland that was just fined $12,000 for simply allowing homeless people to sleep outside the church at night. This backlash against homeless people comes at a time when homelessness in America is absolutely exploding. In a previous article, I shared with my readers the fact that the number of homeless people in New York City has just set a brand new all-time high, and the homelessness crisis in California has become so severe that the L.A. City Council has formally asked Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency. Sadly, instead of opening up our hearts to the rapidly growing number of Americans without a home, way too many communities are trying to use the law to force them to go somewhere else.
For nearly two thousand years, churches have been at the forefront of helping the poor and disadvantaged, but now many communities are trying to stop this from happening. Earlier today, I was absolutely stunned when I came across an article that talked about how a church in Dundalk, Maryland has been fined $12,000 for allowing the homeless to sleep outside the church at night…
“I showed up Wednesday morning to find a citation on the door that said we’re going to be fined $12,000 and have a court date because we have unhoused homeless people sleeping outside the church at night,” said Reverend Katie Grover with the Patapsco United Methodist Church.
Grover added that the men and women who sleep outside their doors do so because they have nowhere else to go and because they feel safe there.
“We feel we here as a church that it’s scriptural mandate that’s it an imperative to care for the least, the last, the lost, the poor, the hungry,” she said.
The authorities in Dundalk say that the church is running a “non-permitted rooming and boarding house”, and the severity of this fine is likely to put the church in significant financial difficulty if it is forced to pay it. You can watch a local news report discussing this story on YouTube right here…
Of course Dundalk is far from alone. All across the U.S. laws have been passed that specifically target the homeless. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, the following are some of the most typical ways that the homeless are targeted…
Carrying out sweeps (confiscating personal property including tents, bedding, papers, clothing, medications, etc.) in city areas where homeless people live.
Making panhandling illegal.
Making it illegal for groups to share food with homeless persons in public spaces.
Enforcing a “quality of life” ordinance relating to public activity and hygiene.
There are some people that have been feeding the hungry for decades that now find that their work has been suddenly made illegal. For instance, down in Houston a Good Samaritan named Jay Hamberger is outraged that the help that he has been providing to the homeless for 27 years has now made him an outlaw…
Jay Hamberger has been bringing food to Houston’s homeless for 27 years. He feels the city is infringing on his right to help others by requiring him to have prior permission to distribute food on public and private property.
“I’ve done it with impunity for 27 years now, and I’m the most law-abiding outlaw, because what I’m doing is illegal,” Hamberger said. “My understanding is that there’s no legal way to make this right with the city.”
This is just another example of how our society is being strangled to death by control freaks.
If I see someone that is desperately hungry and I want to give that person food, then I am going to do it no matter what the law says.
Unfortunately, as the homelessness crisis continues to escalate these types of laws are only going to increase. Even in supposedly “tolerant” areas of the country we are seeing draconian measures being implemented. For example, just check out the new ordinance that was just passed in Los Angeles…
LA legislators passed an ordinance that would ban people from sleeping in cars and recreational vehicles (RVs) near homes, parks and schools. Advocates see the ordinance as the latest move to criminalize homeless people.
The Los Angeles City Council voted in favor of the ordinance on Wednesday. Banning people from sleeping near homes, schools and parks in their vehicles, would, if signed into law, only make it legal to sleep overnight in cars and RV’s in industrial or commercial districts from 9:00pm to 6:00am.
As millions of Americans have fallen out of the middle class in recent years, we have seen an explosion in the number of people living in cars, trucks and recreational vehicles. This is something that I addressed in my recent article entitled “Living In A Van Down By The River – Time To Face The True State Of The Middle Class In America“. During this time of the year many that live in their vehicles head for warmer climates, and cities like Los Angeles are responding to the influx of homeless people by trying to force them to go somewhere else.
And this “war on the homeless” has actually been ramping up for quite a while. Just check out these numbers from the Washington Post…
Cities have enacted a wave of crackdowns and new laws against panhandling, camping and other activities associated with homelessness. They say such efforts help preserve the renewed vitality, curbing crime, health problems and behaviors that bother residents and disrupt business.
Between 2011 and 2014, the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty found that bans on sleeping in cars shot up 119 percent, citywide camping prohibitions jumped 60 percent, anti-loitering laws increased 35 percent and anti-begging laws increased 25 percent in a survey of 187 cities.
Homeless people do not have a permanent address, and there is always a temptation to try to force them to go somewhere else so that they become someone else’s problem.
But the truth is that we have a massive national crisis on our hands. The number of homeless children in this country has increased by 60 percent since the end of the last recession, and the number of homeless people sleeping in shelters has risen to record levels in major cities on both the east and west coast.
And considering the fact that about two-thirds of the country is currently living paycheck to paycheck, how bad will things get once the next major recession strikes?
Poverty is growing all over the nation, and at the same time hearts all over America are growing very cold.
I truly fear for what this country is going to look like just a few years from now.