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The Impact of Homelessness

October 14, 2010


Image taken at Amtrak 30th Street Station Philadelphia in the Women’s Restroom.

On my way home yesterday, I read the sign shown above in the ladies room at 30th Street Station and immediately thought of the homeless man that I see every day when I walk to work. Some people stop to give him money or food and I’ve also seen him harassed. Many of the homeless in Philadelphia seek refuge in public places like the train station. I’ve seen homeless women bathing in the public restrooms of SEPTA’s Suburban Station and have walked past their sleeping bodies in the closed store corridors at night. At 30th Street, I used to see a woman at the same time every morning, reading the same paper at the  public tables of the Au Bon Pain. I once watched an encounter between a young girl and a homeless woman asking for money to get food, which I documented on my twitter:

“Homeless woman asked young girl in 30th Street if she could spare $. The girl: “Cmon, I’ll buy you something to eat” & walked w/her to Cosi” 7:30 PM May 21st

In response to that tweet, a short conversation started, which delighted me:

“@impactSP2walden are you connected with Dr. Culhane?”- 3:38 PM May 21st

“@billymitchell Yes, Dr. Culhane was very helpful to our Center’s work on the economic downturn: #SP2 #HIPDownturn”- 3:45 PM May 21st

“@impactSP2walden very cool. We in st pete fl are looking to solve local chronic homelessness based on his research.”- 4:03 PM May 21st

How refreshing to see someone’s research and work being put into practice! After all, Dennis Culhane is a Professor in Penn’s School of Social Policy & “Practice,” and as mentioned, was helpful to our Center when we looked into the the effects of the economic downturn and foreclosures in the United States.

The Impact of Foreclosures

In the midst of the current news stories of a national foreclosure probe to investigate faulty paperwork and illegal foreclosure procedures, and RealtyTrac’s latest report of a record high in foreclosures, up 23% from last year, you have to wonder how this will affect the numbers of homeless men, women, and children and also how those numbers will impact the surrounding communities. Last November, the Center for High Impact Philanthropy released High Impact Philanthropy in the Downturn: Focus on Housing, Health, and Hunger (A Guide for Donors). Within that guide are opportunities for philanthropists to consider if they want to help change the dire situations that American families are facing due to the economic crisis. One opportunity for impact or “bang for buck” is nonprofit housing counseling (also found in Opportunity 1: Prevent Foreclosures Through Housing Counseling and Outreach to At-Risk Households).

It was reported today in the Sun Sentinel that Palm Beach and Broward counties in Florida have the two of the highest rates of foreclosures. Those counties are also seeing how loan modification, another opportunity discussed in our guide, can delay or avoid foreclosure. See below for an example of “How Nonprofits Work to Prevent Foreclosures.


Opportunity: Learn How to Address the Needs of Vulnerable Families

 These issues and many more will be the topics in our upcoming Donor Education Seminar for Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Families at Wharton, on Sunday, November 7th and Monday, November 8th, 2010. Our keynote speaker on the 8th will be Newark’s Mayor Cory Booker who has recently been in the news since Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to Newark’s public school system. There will also be panels discussing the issue of foreclosures on which Dennis Culhane of Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice, Suzanne Boas of CredAbility, and many others will be speaking. For more information on the program, please visit: or contact Autumn Walden at 215.573.7266 or Spaces are filling up as the event is fast approaching but there is still time to join the opportunity to interact with a variety of funders and philanthropists, academics, and practitioners. A strict no solicitation policy will also be enforced.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2011 5:25 pm

    Without the support of wonderful non-profits like the North Shore Community Action Program (NSCAP) I would be living on the streets as well. They and private donors fund the Riverhouse in Beverly, MA which is an all-men’s homeless shelter aiming to end homelessness in the area through housing assistance, addiction rehabilitation, finding us jobs, and in the interim giving us food and shelter. Generous donors give many tens of thousands of dollars to the shelter and many more bring food and clothing donations on a daily basis. I just wanted to thank the people who give so freely to us without judgement. Not every homeless person is a drug addict or alcoholic. And in fact, homelessness is many times the cause of these addictions by trying to escape the despair of our situation.

  2. August 31, 2011 10:11 pm

    There are many non-profits that work to help people retain their homes and one of the prominent non-profits is NACA. They have had successful “Save the Dream” campaigns all over the U.S. that has enabled many companies to obtain Loan Modifications. Too bad there are numerous companies that work earnestly to deprive people of their hard earn money with fake loan mods. It would be nice if the banks took a more sincere interest in helping people save their homes so the economy can turn back around faster.

  3. September 23, 2011 1:24 pm

    It is sad to see the impact that our economy is having on so many. People we have never though of as potential homeless now are. It is a positive thing to see that non profits are jumping in to help and find practical application. They played a huge role during the great depression and unfortunately will need to play a role until our economy finds its way back. Thank you for your efforts to help bring light to the subject

  4. October 16, 2011 9:42 am

    The key to jump starting the US economy is to get the housing market going again. And to do that, the banks have got to start lending again. There are now protest going on all over America. It started on Wall Street, and is called “Take over Wall Street”, and has spread across the entire country. As long as it doesn’t become violent, I fully support it. But as President Bill Clinton recently noted on the David Letterman show, for your protest to have meaning, you can’t just be against something, you also have to be for something. If you don’t according to President Clinton, someone else will come in and fill the void.

  5. jacobs permalink
    November 9, 2011 8:06 am

    Homelessness can be a reason for people to engage in violence in order for them to keep up on their needs. And their kids and teens could be violent and may get involve in addiction, violence and drug use are a bad mixture. But thanks to the support of wonderful non-profits like the North Shore Community Action Program (NSCAP) those homeless people are being helped.

  6. November 13, 2011 4:08 pm

    Many people do need help to get loan modifications done. Some are simple and the homeowner has no trouble getting the modification on their own. I usually end up talking with people after they have been turned down or their modification has dragged on for as long as two years. So I mostly hear horror stories.

    Servicers make more money if a mortgage is in default so it is in their best interest to drag the process out as long as possible. Six months is a fast loan modification and you may get turned down 2-3 times before you have an affordable modification. I have also had a loan modification go through in less than one month, start to finish, and it was also a better deal than we had anticipated. Too bad that does not happen more often.

    Unfortunately, statistically more than 90% of all the approved permanent loan modifications are not on sub-prime loans but on conventional loans, and most people that have been helped by Making Home Affordable Programs have been helped by the refinance program HARP which requires good credit and not behind in payments.

    Yes professional Loan Modification help is required but it is not the solution. Something more is needed even if it ends up being the government buying non-performing loans at a discount and then lowering the unpaid principal balance to current market value and current interest rates for 30yrs. Tax credits and incentives have to be worked out so that it is attractive enough for investors to participate in the program.

  7. November 24, 2011 5:56 pm

    Both the areas you mentioned in Florida as well as places like Las Vegas will take years to come out of the foreclosure disaster. Not only does this affect the economy but it will have an impact on the number of people who join the homeless ranks.

  8. January 7, 2012 12:27 am

    Not to be a cynic but I can see this only increasing over the next year or two. Because of dwindling property values, homeowners can and will have a hard time refinancing their loan. And, if they can’t make a payments, they will be forced in foreclosure and/or evicted from their place. Perhaps a non-profit could start buying the notes from distressed homeowners and work to modify their payments each month so that it can become affordable to the homeowner.

  9. January 23, 2012 2:27 pm

    I found the story of the young girl offering to buy the homeless woman something to eat is so touching. I hope that as the economy improves that homelessness and foreclosures will end or be substantially reduced as well, with people finding jobs that pay a liveable wage.

  10. Amanda permalink
    February 2, 2012 2:30 am

    The thing that is bothering me the most right now about the current foreclosure set up, is how it is being handled, and by whom. More specifically, when a home owner calls up the company who is servicing their loan and asks, how do I stop foreclosure on my current mortgage, these companies have no incentive to try and work out a loan modification with the home owner. Just like Daniel North said above, mortgage servicing companies are given an incentive to foreclose on the loan. This is a fundamental problem for which steps must be taken to provide incentives to mortgage servicing companies to avoid foreclosure.

    The good news is that Attorney General Beau Biden is aware of this issue, and is taking steps to correct it. It is just sad that something wasn’t done sooner.

  11. March 28, 2012 4:28 pm

    This is one of those darker moments in American history. Hopefully we (Americans) will endure this financial hardship and find prosperity in greener earth initiatives.

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