Daily Dispatches
A homeless couple sleeps in front of a closed business in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Associated Press/Photo by Ricardo Arduengo
A homeless couple sleeps in front of a closed business in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Homelessness in Puerto Rico and other poverty news

Poverty

Puerto Rico’s homeless population has risen sharply—as much as 70 percent—in the past two years amid an ongoing economic crisis. Across the island of 3.7 million people, thousands of homeless can be seen sleeping on park benches, under bridges, or in doorways. 

Before the economic downturn, 80 percent of the island’s homeless were tied to drugs, but financial and family problems now play a bigger role. One such person is Caridad Colon who, after three decades of financial independence, lost her job and her home, spent one night homeless, and now rents an apartment in a complex nicknamed Crackville: “I am terrified of my neighbors. I sprint up and down those stairs.”

The island’s poverty rate has inched up to nearly 47 percent. That’s compared with Mississippi, the poorest state in the U.S., where nearly 23 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Puerto Rico’s second largest city, Ponce, has no shelter for about 200 homeless people.

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House considers splitting the farm bill. House lawmakers are considering breaking decades-old tradition that long combined farm subsidies and food stamps. The joint “farm bills” encouraged urban and rural lawmakers to work together. But since 2008, food stamp costs have doubled to $80 billion and enrollment has increased by 70 percent. House conservatives killed the bill in both 2012 and 2013, largely by demanding larger food stamp cuts than liberals were willing to make. 

Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the Agriculture Committee, said splitting the bill would be “stupid.” Urban lawmakers fear splitting the bill will increase food stamp cuts, while rural congressmen worry they won’t have enough support for continued farm subsidies. The current bill runs out Sept. 30, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed not to pass an extension, as happened last summer. 

Argentina will pay welfare only to mothers, not fathers. Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has made a major change to the way billions in welfare benefits are paid to families that keep kids vaccinated and in school. “We have many complaints by women who are abandoned by their husbands, but the guys keep on collecting” welfare payments, Fernandez said. “So we want the mother to always get the money, except in cases where courts give legal custody to the father. This is fair.”

Proponents say victims of domestic abuse will no longer be dependent on their husbands, and the measure should reduce the number of lawsuits filed against fathers for child support claims. Opponents decry increased dependency on government, and some say low-income women  will get pregnant to benefit from welfare. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Andrew Branch
Andrew Branch

Andrew is a freelance writer living in Raleigh, N.C. He was homeschooled for 12 years and recently graduated from N.C. State University. He writes about sports and poverty for WORLD. Follow Andrew on Twitter @AndrewABranch.

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