Unreported World meets the USA's new middle-class homeless: families struggling to hold down jobs that pay so little they're forced to live in tent cities or their cars and receive little help from the government.
The Team begin their journey in Chicago, one of the country's manufacturing centres, which has been hit hard by the effects of the worst financial crisis in decades. St Columbanus church is one of 600 charities across the city that gives out emergency food rations.
Across America, many working people from all sectors have taken as much as 40% in pay cuts in desperation to hold on to their jobs. Their motivation is clear: if you are a temporary, part-time or self-employed worker you don't qualify for government help. The result is that many can't make ends meet and afford to feed themselves and their families.
Father Matt Eyerman tells the team that the number of families receiving help from his church has leapt from 240 to 498 over the last two years, even though many of them still have jobs.
Today, more than 37 million Americans receive either state or private food assistance. More than three million were made homeless in 2009 despite holding down jobs. More than half of those living in shelters have had their homes repossessed by banks.
The team travels south to the state of Tennessee. They've been told that thousands of homeless people are taking refuge in temporary encampments. The City of Nashville, which has only only one emergency shelter for families, has more than 40 of these 'tent cities'.
They meet Michael and Stacey Farley, who have been living in the tent city for six months. Stacey explains how she has been forced to leave her son and daughter with relatives while they both look for work.
The team move on to California, where more and more people are ending up on the streets. California has the highest debt in the USA and many essential services have been cut, including emergency housing assistance. 'Skid Row', which is one square mile of Los Angeles, has as many as 2,000 people sleeping rough every night. It has a reputation for drugs and crime and they talk to homeless people who are forced to walk all day to avoid being picked up by the police for loitering.
The US economy is in recovery but many experts believe the most damaging effects have yet to be felt. It's predicted that another 1.5 million people will be forced into homelessness within two years, and in a country with few safety nets, many more people could fall through the cracks.Watch now on 4oD
|Friday 25 June 2010||Channel 4|
|Friday 25 June 2010||7.30PM||Channel 4|