For most of us, urban street people are generally what comes to mind when we hear the word homeless. People without secure and reasonable access to permanent places to live populate the suburbs in growing numbers. They are just less readily visible. They can include ‘couch-surfing’ young people, tent campers living alongside rivers or in woodlots and people in shelters or living in a motor vehicle. They are hard to count and hard to bring services to.
“Suburban homelessness has its own set of challenges. Suburbs often lack public transportation, shelters, and government assistance agencies. By far the largest hurdle the suburban homeless have to overcome is that they are not supposed to exist.”
Last refuge for the homeless: living in the car
Swedish researchers have linked marriage stress and failure with long commutes. In sociological enquiry of any kind the underlying idea seems to be to constantly generate new questions. This study does that in droves. Big mortgages for suburban homes require major time investments in commuting. Many now live in one suburb and commute to another suburb. Not easy.
Long commutes bad for marriage
“A long commute to work might further job prospects and put more money in the bank but it could also increase the risk for divorce by 40 percent, a new study from Umeå University in northern Sweden shows”
Towards the tail end of the boom the media in North America coined the term “supercommuter” for people cruising as much as ninety minutes each way between home and workplace. Presumably that was by choice. Now, the Great Recession seems to be incentivizing some long drives.
Recession breeds wave of supercommuters
Looks like both cities and suburbs have lost a lot of their cultural weight and the result is a kind of post modern confusion about how we ought to live. Cities and suburbs seem to repel us and attract us.
Suburbs vs. cities — whose utopias? rabble.ca
Out on the new, poorer frontier there’s at least one fun thing we can all bank on: dead shopping malls. Perhaps along with zombie car dealerships and deep coma garden centres the malls will form a stock of adaptable, recyclable structures more suited to a post-cheap energy and post-high finance world? Are you wagering that stash of gold bars and shot gun shells on it? Didn’t think so.
Ghosts of shopping past photo gallery
Malls of a certain age audio link on page
“The enclosed mall itself, though, is as dead as your average big-city newspaper. Which is to say: not dead yet, exactly, but no one’s betting on its future.”
Liberal, activist, progressive, independent news voice AlterNet gets a whack in at suburban poverty in this feature article:
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development produces a host of data directly useful for assessing social conditions. Do we need a supercomputer to connect rising inequality and the stacked economic gains of the rich with suburban poverty and downward mobility?
Notes for individual countries are found on the OECD site (.pdf files):
Better than many for a long time but no reason to be smug: Canada
Faltering after some improvement: United Kingdom
Forget it, only Turkey & Mexico are worse for income inequality: United States
Some improvement but could do better: Australia
The mass appearance of one begat the other and so we find the fate of the middle class and the fate of suburban life conjoined in a fashion that would have given Eng and Chang Bunker a good fright. You could not have had one without the other. Moving forward into the Long Emergency and a world of expensive petroleum, general resource depletion, traumatic economics, badly impaired credit/financial systems and shock doctrines we may end up losing much of both suburbia and its most loyal customers. Leave it to The Atlantic Monthly to be a source of timely content for us yet again.
Can the Middle Class Be Saved?
“The Great Recession has accelerated the hollowing-out of the American middle class. And it has illuminated the widening divide between most of America and the super-rich. Both developments herald grave consequences. Here is how we can bridge the gap between us.”Elizabeth Warren is an academic expert with a specialty in credit law and consumer debt/bankruptcy issues. She was in the documentary Maxed Out and the link below takes you to a presentation she gave in 2008. 57 minutes that will open your eyes. If you have the stomache for the details of the destruction of the middle class in America block out the time. Seriously, this wonderful, articulate, compassionate and very smart woman should be the president of the USA, not that nice, utterly feckless Obama guy.
The coming collapse of the middle class
Better quality, less reactionary consideration of recent riots in England is starting to emerge. The first item for this posting is from The Guardian and it makes a reasonable connection to prolonged suburban rioting in France’s suburbs six years ago, examining the motives of actors in the street. The second, an older item from The Economist, …well, reading is believing.
Striking parallels between UK riots and France 2005 unrest
Rebranding la banlieue: an attempt to brush up the image of Parisian suburbs
The Western Journal of Emergency Medicine published a paper this July describing problems associated with addiction services in suburban areas. This is the kind of piece that expands our understanding of what suburban poverty means in a needed, detailed way. Much of the discussion of low density, ex-urban life focusses on matters of land use, environmental sustainability, energy, politics, taste and aesthetics. We are now long beyond the point where social realities need to be considered on an equal footing with the physical design of communities.
Suburban Poverty: Barriers to Services and Injury Prevention among Marginalized Women who Use Methamphetamine
The difficulty of accurately perceiving social conditions in suburban communities is rooted in space and structure. Much of our definition of cities attaches to their evolution under nineteenth century industrialization. When we think of say Paris or Baltimore the weight of our general definition of them is shaped by this older process of identity building. When the era of ex-urban hyper-building got going after 1945 new approaches to understanding human communities were required and began to come about – but have been only partially successful. It seems that wherever the land, capital, political relationships, and economic imperatives are in place multiple worlds developed, inner and outer ones.
There are still arguments over exactly what constitutes suburbia but… well, we feel we know it when we see it. Suburbia is misunderstood, changing, and remains screened by the larger, older identities of place. This pair of links, to items from NewGeography.com, offer general approaches to a more integrated understanding of place.
The two worlds of Buenos Aires
Toronto: three cities in more than one way