Something happened in Detroit on Wednesday this week that flew beneath the radar of many Americans. Nearly 35,000 Detroiters converged on Cobo Hall to get one of the 5,000 applications for federal aid to people in poverty.
Via the Detroit News:
They came by foot, wheelchair, bicycle and car. About six left by ambulance after tensions rose and people were trampled, according to a paramedic on the scene. One unfortunate soul got his car booted.
Detroiters were trying to pick up 5,000 federal assistance applications from the city at Cobo because Detroit received nearly $15.2 million in federal dollars under the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, which is for temporary financial assistance and housing services to individuals and families who are homeless, or who would be homeless without this help.
People in wheelchairs and others using canes were being leaned on by people too weak to stand. Emergency medical technicians on the scene said they treated applicants who were injured during the rush to get inside the venue.
Meanwhile, conservatives laugh.
Cross-posted at Eclectablog.
This is the reality of poverty in the USA today. 35,000 people show up for a chance at one of 5,000 applications for assistance. In the process, scuffles break out causing injuries. More from the Detroit Free Press:
The economic tsunami washing over metro Detroit swept its casualties to the doors of Cobo Center on Wednesday in the form of 35,000 people so desperate for help with mortgage and utility bills that threats were made, fights broke out and people were nearly trampled.
It was one of the most dramatic signs to date of how deeply joblessness and the home foreclosure crisis have pushed people from the lower and middle ends of the economic scale to seek help wherever they can.
City officials said a total of about 65,000 people over the past few days have gotten applications -- due next Wednesday -- for a share of $15.2 million in federal stimulus money to help people avoid foreclosure or quickly rebound from homelessness.
Ultimately, as few as 3,500 people may receive the help.
By Andre J. Jackson, Detroit Free Press
Michigan, as most know, leads the country in unemployment levels. Across the state, 15.2% of Michiganders are without jobs. In Detroit, it's even more dire with 27.8%. When those who have given up are included, the number is well over 1 in 3.
Over one-third of the people in Detroit live below the federal poverty level.
"It's probably the worst hunger crisis we've seen in our history," said Anne Schenk, spokeswoman for Detroit's Gleaners Community Food Bank, the state's largest food bank, serving five counties in southeast Michigan.
Here's video from the Associated Press:
Rush Limbaugh, of course, used this sad occurrence to make references to "Obama's America" and to denigrate poor, uneducated Detroiters who live their lives on less money per year than Limbaugh makes in an hour.
From Crooks and Liars comes the Limbaugh audio:
There's a transcript available at Limbaugh's webpage entitled "Detroit's Model Citizens Line Up for Money from Obama's 'Stash'". It's sickening.
After spending several minutes playing cherry-picked interviews with people who clearly know nothing about the source of the funds, Limbaugh describes all Detroiters and those seeking federal assistance like this:
"Dumb, uninformed, shockingly, saddeningly stupid, the model citizen for Barack Obama and the Democrat Party [...]
There you have it, model citizens in Obama's America. 'I don't know, it's coming from Obama's stash. He loves us!' That's exactly what Obama wants these people to think. And this is what socialism gets you. If these people think it's bad now trying to get money, wait until Obama fully enacts everything in his plan."
More on this in Detroit Mark's diary from yesterday.
Read the comments in the Detroit Free Press and Detroit News articles to see how this is playing out in the minds of conservatives. Take a Foray Into Freeperville (the loathesome Free Republic website) and search on the tag "Detroit" to see just how funny conservatives think this is.
This is real poverty. This is nearly half the people of a major metropolitan city without work. This is the real face of homelessness, hunger, fear, crime and desperation. It's in our states. It's in our cities. It's in our communities.
And for the conservative right, it's worth a good laugh.
I'm just sayin'...
UPDATE: If you wish to help out some of the more outstanding groups in the Detroit area that are helping impoverished people, I would direct your attention to these four specifically:
UPDATE 2: Fantastic photos from the Detroit News can be seen HERE. Click the photos link in the "Related Content" box on the right side of the page.
UPDATE 3: I commend your attention to boatsie's excellent diary, BrokenRoots Sunday: Art & HPRP & Homeless in America which discusses the source of these funds. The Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program (HPRP) is part of the economic stimulus package passed by Congress earlier this year (aka, American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) and boatsie's diary is a thorough review of it.
This Sunday, BrokenRoots shines a light on HPRP: How's it doing so far? What are its guidelines and philosophy? Who's eligible and how is HPRP defining homelessness? And, perhaps more significantly, as the days grow shorter and the temps drop, what are YOU doing about the homeless crisis in your own backyard? We'll provide a few suggestions and solicit some ideas.
For our part, my wife and I are donating over a bushel of freshly-picked organic sweet bell peppers, spicy chili peppers (jalapenos and anchos) and some eggplants from our garden to the local bank, Food Gatherers, part of their Plant-a-Row For the Hungry program. We're taking them down today.
This is our harvest from Saturday before we got a big freeze that night. We don't have much money to donate but we can provide nutritious vegetables for some families in our area. As boatsie asks:
"What are YOU doing about the homeless crisis in your own backyard?"