US Mortgage crisis: a slum comes up near Los Angeles

Last updated on Mar 31, 2008

Posted on Mar 31, 2008

Dharavi, in Bombay, is the second largest slum in Asia (after Orangi Township in Karachi).  It has a million people in there.  Slums are a common problem in poor countries.  People, who cannot make it in a big city but cannot leave that city either somehow end up in slums with minimal facilities and utilities.  Open toilets, makeshift kitchens etc are the norm.

Given the sure progress of medicare and social security into bankruptcy and sky-rocketing health costs (of course protected by strong lobbies), I often say that within our lifetimes we will see the elderly in the United States of America begging on the streets in large numbers at the fag end of their lives!

Such is the state of affairs that the rich investment banks are bailed out but the normal middle class people who were exploited by these very unscrupulous idiots are left to bide on their own.

The mortgage crisis has paved the first phase of the road to poverty for middle class people – specifically the elderly.  The results are also predictable – slums!  Probably the first slum (ok, one where the whites are the inhabitants) is coming up near Los Angeles as the home owners go homeless and have no place to stay.  Its on the outskirts of Ontario, California.

What was set up as a temporary base by some local officials for about a dozen.. went to two dozen and now it has 300 people in it.  There are no plans to close it down currently.

The scenario:

Most residents live in tents, some in mobile homes in various states of disrepair, their possessions crammed in with them or spread out on the ground.
Amenities are basic – no mains electricity, no plumbing, no drainage. Portable showers offer a chance to wash, but there is nowhere to prepare food, apart from makeshift tables in the open air.
Dogs and children scratch around in the dusty earth.
What is striking is the range of people here: whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, the old and young including some with babies. And they tell a variety of stories too.

The medicine is not easy and simple.  There is a lot involved in all this and many things are in the cross hairs.  I am not sure where would the next Government start but the answers will involve some very tough foreign policy measures as well – specifically dealing with the imbalance with China.

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