LIVING IN CARS

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Homelessness in America has been a socially scandalous epidemic for some decades now.  And, of course, not just for the current generation of immigrants.  My spouse and I dined recently at a cheap joint a few blocks from our city home.  As we exited into the cold January night of the northern Midwest, we ran into one of her former co-workers who had just been laid off from his pressman’s job at a regional newspaper.  We stood between our two cars in the dimly lit parking lot while the two of them chatted about their former work lives.   My wife had been one of the newspaper’s long time photographers until her retirement a few years ago.

Stealing a glance now and again at the man’s old Chrysler mini van, I could see sheets, a sleeping bag rolled out, and personal belongings filling the automobile’s interior up to the windows.  He had not been very many paychecks away from homelessness, and was attempting survival in the North Country winter in his van.  Unfortunately, he was only the most recent in a series of persons rendered homeless in our area of the world.  When I wrote THE COST OF DREAMS, I had ample images readily at hand regards human beings kicked out of their residences by the landlords and the banks.

One summer as I worked on the book, I walked out into my local bank’s parking lot to spot a young man on an early Saturday morning stretched out in the back of a small Ford station wagon.  I drove home and described the scene for my family, and a friend visiting that morning knew the young fellow, who worked for a sub-survival wage at a local restaurant.

In my novel, the Latin American occupants of an old rusted sedan know all of the associated problems occasioned by living in a car.  The young children have no consistent access to proper schooling and education, which positions them for a continuance of a life of dire poverty.  And they’ve nothing for decent and dignified access to proper hygiene, to toilets, or to laundry facilities.  Moreover, my characters know no peace, living in fear night and day of deportation and/or jail for the simple earthly crime of hunger, and of having crossed a border to eat.

In THE COST OF DREAMS, immigrants from Mexico haul a terribly wounded adult woman, who has been shot by her husband, from the southwestern US to the northern Midwest in an old automobile.  By the time and occasion of her medical attention in the North Country, the dreadfully injured woman has crossed the mid continent paralyzed and filthy.  Her gunshot wounds are seriously infected, and a craterous pressure sore into the fat of one buttock has achieved a diameter of over six inches from lying in the car in one position for weeks.  These events, by the way, reflect a back-story of a homeless person I cared for at my hospital over fifteen years ago.

Social problems always and forever have social roots.  The social wealth created by working persons has been stripped out and handed to the largest banks in America, in an utter and contemptible gluttony of the financial aristocracy.

It is a social disgrace.

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