America's War on Poverty

Jeff Foreman, Director of Policy

Tomorrow, January 8th, is the 50th anniversary of America’s “unconditional war on poverty.” 

Yesterday Care for the Homeless sent copies of petitions they collected to members of the New York Congressional delegation asking that they not “allow more funding cuts to programs providing health care and human services to poor and homeless people.”

The War on Poverty began with poverty in America of 17.4% and a commitment to “not rest until that war is won.” It lasted in an aggressive way about as long as the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and in 2014 dollars cost a small fraction of those wars. And the War on Poverty was working when we stopped fighting it.

In the 1960s and 1970s America’s poverty rate was falling. It went from 17.4% in ’65 to 12% in 1974. 

The War on Poverty spawned programs assisting the poorest Americans in nutrition, health care, housing and job training. It created the Department of Housing and Urban Development (headed by the first black Cabinet Secretary), the Office of Economic Opportunity and “community action” agencies in every county. 

Today the programs that waged the War on Poverty are under attack. For example, food stamps, launched in 1964, took a substantial cut two months ago and are back on the chopping block. It appears coming food stamp cuts will be larger than the last one. 

Meanwhile, the poverty rate in America is 15% and 21% in New York City (more than double that according to city’s own poverty measure). Median income has been falling. More children than ever live in poverty. 

We need your help in the fight to end homelessness and fight poverty in America. Please join the hundreds who signed our petition. We must let them Congress know there’s a constituency who cares about protecting people suffering homelessness, poverty and who are vulnerable.

You can reach your Representative and Senators through the Congressional switchboard, toll-free, at 1-800-828-0495. Please don’t delay. These decisions are being made in Congress now!           

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