Obama Proposes Strengthening Working Class (No Mention of Homelessness)

written by Kate Seif
February 13, 2013

When you live inside the beltway of our nation’s capital, like nearly all of us here at the Alliance, there are a few big events where the political buzz in the town grows a little louder and your inner politico comes out to play. The elections are one, inaugurals another, and of course, the State of the Union Address. Last night, President Barack Obama delivered the 223rd annual State of the Union (his 5th) to a joint session of Congress. The SOTU is an opportunity for the President to use his “bully pulpit” and lay out the Administration’s agenda for the upcoming year.

Some of these agenda items were unsurprising: gun control, immigration, climate change, and the budget. As one of the policy team members at the Alliance, I was watching the Address for some obvious specifics – will the President talk about homelessness? Low-income people? Housing? We know from past analysis, that the President was unlikely to mention homelessness directly, but housing did get a brief mention (couched in terms of refinancing mortgages and making it easier for Americans to afford their own homes).

While the 2012 campaign was largely about “who’s a bigger champion of the middle class,” this year’s Address spoke (a little bit more) to working class, low-income Americans. He called for a $1.75/hour hike in the federal minimum wage (specifically, tying minimum wage to the cost of living), which could have a tremendous impact on people’s ability to make rent. He called for Congress to replace and avoid the sequester, which would have a severely damaging impact on spending for nearly all federal programs. He also talked about addressing urban blight to make our communities more vibrant and help make families stronger and better able to succeed.

These proposed measures could make a tremendous impact on extremely low-income people. Homelessness and extremely low-income people are nonetheless not at the top of the explicit agenda. The President (in a speech of about 6,500 words) only used the word “poor” once; he only referenced poverty in America three times (see the Posts analysis on that here); and he did not use the words “low-income” at all. People experiencing homelessness are among the most vulnerable populations in our nation. And unfortunately, many people, including politicians, see homelessness as a fact of life in the developed world. Many issues, often forced by current events (i.e. gun control), will take precedence over helping the poorest Americans. But we know that homelessness is a problem with concrete solutions. We can end homelessness in America.

Fortunately, there’s something that you, as readers of this blog, as people interested in preventing and ending homelessness, can do. The good news is that politicians essentially work for us, their constituents. So let your elected officials know what you’d like them to focus on in 2013. Tell them to make ending homelessness a priority for our country. There’s a plan they can get behind and there’s funding they can approve to help us keep making progress toward a day when everyone has a place to call home.