Homelessness spiked in the USA during the 1980s, people were left with no option but to travel to major cities to sleep rough on park benches, relying on soup kitchens or missionaries for food and shelter. What was life like on the streets? (1989)
Sitting in the sun filled San Francisco cable cars at the top of the city's famous hills you can see boats sailing underneath the iconic Golden Gate bridge. The low houses sprawl across the city that has grown out rather than up due to earthquakes that have hammered the ground and devastated it over the centuries. The necessity of this style of architecture has meant that housing is not cheap with many ordinary people unable to purchase their own property. This coupled with the federal government's cuts in social welfare and housing means that a lot of people who are down on their luck now find themselves without a roof over their heads.
The hot San Francisco sun keeps people warm as they settle in for a night's rest on a park bench or in a shop door off the sidewalk, but the warmth does not provide much respite as the threat of violence is always near. Life on the streets is dangerous and most homeless people carry sticks and knifes to protect themselves from attack.
In direct contrast to San Francisco, homeless people in New York live in communities far beneath the buzz of the city in underground tunnels that connect the subway, or in the city's abandoned buildings, where they can get some shelter from the harsh winters and protection in numbers. In New York, a huge amount of people freeze to death on the streets, become addicted to drugs or enter into prostitution to make ends meet. Life on the street is extremely dangerous, and tragically, a large number of people are murdered and, sadly, forgotten.
How did these people come to live on the streets of America's most famous cities? What is the government doing to help the homeless?
Presented by Joe Little & Produced by Michael Littleton ( First broadcast in 1989 )