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
Liberal, activist, progressive, independent news voice AlterNet gets a whack in at suburban poverty in this feature article:
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
The working poor and immigrants were pulled to the suburbs and the Edge Cites during the real estate boom. After the crash, these groups are stranded in dispersed locations where social services and jobs tend to be thin on the ground. Enormous stress is created for vulnerable people when, for example, they try to access food banks on foot or via public transit. When they get to a resource they may then find it struggling for resources as well. Rapid growth in suburbia during the boom often resulted in under-funding of social services or reliance on uneven private, charitable efforts. The perception of poverty as an urban or inner city social ill also distorts responses and, like the Great Recession that sponsors so much of it, is not really going away fast. This podcast is about 15 minutes and refers to recent Brookings findings.
Next American City » Metro Matters Podcast » The Suburban Poor: An Interview with Elizabeth Kneebone and Scott Allard.
It looks like 2008 was the tipping point for suburban poverty. In that year of crashing global trade and high financial disaster awareness of suburban poverty started going mainstream. It had always been there of course but joblessness, the mortgage bomb and the high cost of energy mean more people are sharing in it. Media coverage of reports from the Brookings Institution and ongoing coverage of unemployment and foreclosures made for some grim reading for Americans. The socio-economic and structural arrangements of suburban living appear to be contracting all over the United States and in other communities around the world. One of the most substantial pieces representing this awareness of great change ran in The Atlantic Monthly in March of 2008. This feature article shows just how timely and powerful good magazine journalism can be. Required reading if you want to know where it’s all going.
The Next Slum? The subprime crisis is just the tip of the iceberg.
Fundamental changes in American life may turn today’s McMansions into tomorrow’s tenements.