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English books High School Hs American history

Jobless and Homeless

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Illustrated and Designed By
Christian Alas
Sound By
Margarita Onofre

Jobless and Homeless

Approximately 12 million people were unemployed by 1932. One out of every four American workers was unemployed. Some cities had money to aid those without jobs, but the money soon ran out.

There were no existing federal welfare programs. Millions of people had no place to turn other than charity. People went to church soup kitchens and Salvation Army shelters for help.

The governors and mayors were flooded by urgent requests for help from the people. A jobless man from Pennsylvania faced losing his home since he had no money to pay the rent. In addition to that, his wife was in the hospital. He wrote a letter to his governor in 1931 stating, “I have six little children. Where am I to go in the cold winter with my children?”

– 2 –

Thousands of workers like this man had lost their homes. They looked for shelter in public parks and even in vacant lots by riverside swamps. They pitched tents, went into abandoned shacks, and made sheds out of packing crates, corrugated iron sheets, and cardboard boxes. Many other unemployed people wandered across the country. They would hitchhike, walk, or even “hop” freight trains. They would often sleep on park benches and beg or scrounge for food to eat.

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A song called “Wandering” helps show what it was like:

I’ve been wandering far and wide
I come with the wind, I drift with the tide,
And it looks like I’m never going to cease my wandering.

Thousands of small farmers lost everything, and in the early 1930s, American farmers were also on the move. Many farmers abandoned their land, loaded their belongings into old cars, and joined the homeless bands of people that were traveling across the country. Following rumors of jobs, some people headed toward California.

The Americans who were lucky enough to have jobs were also affected. Their salaries decreased and many of them were forced to live by a lower standard of living.

– 4 –

As the presidential election of 1932 approached, the spirits of the American people were extremely low. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, often called FDR, was chosen by the Democratic Party as its presidential candidate. FDR was a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, the former Republican President.

In 1910, FDR had begun his great political career when he was elected to the New York State Senate. Later, he was elected Assistant Secretary of the Navy. FDR ran for Vice-President in 1920. One year later, due to a disease called polio, FDR lost the use of his legs.

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However, Roosevelt fought his handicap and made a comeback to public life with the help of his wife, Eleanor. Roosevelt was elected Governor of New York in 1928. In his presidential campaign of 1932, Roosevelt made a promise that, if he was elected, the federal government would end the Depression.

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I pledge myself,” he said, “to a new deal for the American people.” Roosevelt won the election with nearly 23 million votes while only 16 million people voted for the incumbent, President Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt’s efforts in leading the country on the road to recovery were called the “New Deal.

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Find the vocabulary words (in bold), write them below, and find the definition of each in a dictionary.

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Write 5 sentences using some of the vocabulary words.

1. ______________________________________

2. ______________________________________

3. ______________________________________

4. ______________________________________

5. ______________________________________

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Write one sentence to describe the history of the jobless and homeless in the U.S. during this time period for each area below:

What?

______________________________________
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When?

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How?

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Where?

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Why?

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Who?

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Discuss:

1. What is a Federal welfare program and how could it help?

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2. Why were some people “wandering” across the country during the depression?

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Jobless and Homeless