Going for Broke

For some time to come, Americans will be reflecting on how our way of life has been altered by the horrific Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. While more-cumbersome air travel might top the list of life changes for some, the effects on those living in poverty may be much worse.

Little media attention has been given to the countless victims who were not the executives, traders, or senior management, but who were the janitors, service employees, and minimum wage workers. Families who lost their primary source of income in the wake of Sept. 11 are struggling to pay rent and utilities, put food on the table, or provide for their families’ basic clothing and insurance needs. Families are facing homelessness, turning to food stamps, and working multiple jobs to get by.

New York’s City Harvest, a large downtown soup kitchen, reports a weekly service increase of 55,000 people since Sept. 11. University Settlement House on the Lower East Side in New York has received a four-fold increase in requests for aid. And the damage is being felt far beyond New York. Homeless shelters in Michigan are reporting increased numbers of people; unemployment benefit requests in Nevada have jammed phone lines; jobless claims in New Orleans for the month following the terrorist attacks jumped 30 percent. In Minnesota there are more families receiving welfare—some 42,000—than any time since October 1999.

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2002
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