Unreported World, USA: Down and Out


The Times

Repossessed join the dispossessed on California’s Skid Row

Ramita Navai Los Angeles

July 3 2010

Moluba smooths his crisp black shirt into his trousers, adjusts his baseball cap and inspects his leather shoes. He is meticulous about his appearance.

“I spend at least an hour getting ready for work every morning,” he says proudly.

Despite working as a full-time market researcher, Moluba is homeless. Each night he returns to Skid Row, a dilapidated slum in downtown Los Angeles where he sleeps on the pavement in one of the rubbish strewn alleyways, a small black rucksack his pillow.

He added: “My colleagues don’t know I’m homeless, because I’m not the type of guy who should be sleeping on the streets.”

More than three million people were made homeless in America last year and a growing number, like Moluba, have jobs and college educations. Nor are most of Skid Row’s 2,000 inhabitants, curled up on rags and in torn tents, drug addicts, alcoholics or mentally ill.

“I have seen people with masters and PhD degrees lying down on cardboard,” said Joe Thomas, a Vietnam veteran and trained therapist who has been sleeping rough in Skid Row for nearly three years.

Moluba and Joe are America’s new homeless — employed people who are victims of the recession. Many have had their pay slashed by as much as 40 per cent or lost their jobs altogether. Both have tried finding beds in charity shelters but they are always full.

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