Reagan and the Homeless Epidemic in
Now, Friday, June 11th, 2004
Reagan's budget cuts and overhaul of tax codes led
to an explosion of homelessness in the U.S. during his 8 years in power.
We speak with Carol Fennelly, a leading activist on homeless issues during
the Reagan presidency.
Throughout the week, Ronald Reagan has been praised almost non-stop on
television, in newspapers and in magazines. Politicians and pundits from
both establishment political parties have been practically falling over
each other to heap praise on Reagan. And as he is glorified for what are
termed his accomplishments and legacy, there is one term that was rose
to prominence during Reagan's time in power that is seldom mentioned.
That is "homelessness."
In fact many homeless rights activists say the single most devastating
thing Reagan did to create homelessness was when he cut the budget for
the Department of Housing and Urban Development by three-quarters, from
$32 billion in 1981 to $7.5 billion by 1988. The department was the main
governmental supporter of subsidized housing for the poor. Add this to
Reagan's overhaul of tax codes to reduce incentives for private developers
to create low-income homes and you had a major crisis for low-income families
and individuals. Under Reagan, the number of people living beneath the
federal poverty line rose from 24.5 million in 1978 to 32.5 million in
And the number of homeless people went from something so little it wasn't
even written about widely in the late 1970s to more than 2 million when
Reagan left office. But as Reagan proudly declared that the number of
homeless shelters had increased significantly during his presidency, the
homeless epidemic did not go ignored by everyone, especially not in Reagan's
back yard in Washington DC. Homeless rights activist Mitch Snyder and
a dedicated group of homeless people and activists waged a many year campaign
to win rights for people forced to live on the streets. Ultimately, they
formed a movement based at what came to be known as the Community for
Creative Non-Violence or CCNV. We are joined now by one of the people
who was a leader of the homeless rights movement at CCNV during the Reagan
Carol Fennelly, was a leading activist on homeless issues during the Reagan
presidency. Along with Mitch Snyder, she was instrumental in establishing
the Community for Creative Non-Violence in Washington DC. She is currently
the Director of Hope House in Washington.