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Friday, July 28, 2023

Health Care - More Unaffordable Than Ever

image: putting off healthcare due to cost

Record High in U.S. Put Off Medical Care Due to Cost in 2022

By Megan Brennan
Gallup
January 27, 2023

The percentage of Americans reporting they or a family member postponed medical treatment in 2022 due to cost rose 12 points in one year, to 38%, the highest in Gallup’s 22-year trend.

Each year since 2001, Gallup has tracked Americans’ self-reports of delaying medical care in the past 12 months due to cost. The latest reading, from Gallup’s annual Health and Healthcare poll conducted Nov. 9-Dec. 2, is the highest by five points and marks the sharpest year-over-year increase to date.

This change came amid the highest inflation rate in the U.S. in more than 40 years, which made 2022 a challenging year for many Americans. A majority of U.S. adults have said inflation is CREATING AT LEAST A MODERATE HARDSHIP for them. The public continues to VIEW THE STATE OF THE U.S. ECONOMY NEGATIVELY, and Americans were more likely to name INFLATION AS THE MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM facing the U.S. in 2022 than at any time since 1984.

The latest double-digit increase in delaying medical treatment came on the heels of two consecutive 26% readings during the COVID-19 pandemic that were the lowest since 2004. The previous high point in the trend was 33% in 2014 and 2019. An average 29% of U.S. adults reported putting off medical treatment because of cost between 2001 and 2021.

Americans were more than twice as likely to report the delayed treatment in their family was for a serious rather than a nonserious condition in 2022. In all, 27% said the treatment was for a “very” or “somewhat” serious condition or illness, while 11% said it was “not very” or “not at all” serious. Since 2004, more U.S. adults have said the medical care needed was for a serious than nonserious condition, but the 16-point gap in the perceived seriousness of forgone treatment in 2022 is the second largest on record to a 17-point gap in 2019.

Delayed Care Reports Differ by Income, Age, Gender

Lower-income adults, younger adults and women in the U.S. have consistently been more likely than their counterparts to say they or a family member have delayed care for a serious medical condition.

In 2022, Americans with an annual household income under $40,000 were nearly twice as likely as those with an income of $100,000 or more to say someone in their family delayed medical care for a serious condition (34% vs. 18%, respectively). Those with an income between $40,000 and less than $100,000 were similar to those in the lowest income group when it comes to postponing care, with 29% doing so.

Reports of putting off care for a serious condition are up 12 points among lower-income U.S. adults, up 11 points among those in the middle-income group and up seven points among those with a higher income. The latest readings for the middle- and upper-income groups are the highest on record or tied with the highest.

There were also significant age differences in reports of postponing care in 2022, with young and middle-aged adults much more likely than older adults to say they or a family member delayed medical care for a serious condition. This is likely due to the fact that Americans aged 65 and older are covered by Medicare.

A new high of 35% of adults aged 18 to 49 said they or someone in their family put off care, while 25% of those aged 50 to 64 and 13% of those aged 65 and older said the same. The readings are up 12 points among those younger than 50, up 10 points among 50- to 64-year-olds, and up six points among those aged 65 and older.

Looking at gender differences in 2022, 32% of women and 20% of men reported putting off medical treatment, representing a 12-point increase from 2021 for women and a five-point increase for men. The resulting 12-point gender gap is well above the seven-point average gender gap since 2001.

Bottom Line

With high inflation creating moderate to severe hardship for a majority of Americans in the second half of 2022, their reports of delaying medical care in general due to cost—as well as delaying care for a serious condition—rose sharply to new highs. Young adults, those in lower-income households and women were especially likely to say they or a family member had put off medical care.

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/28/23 •
Section Dying America
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Tuesday, July 25, 2023

Police Radio Backdoors

image: scanner school
 
Vendors knew all about it, but most customers were clueless.
- ARS Technica

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Code Kept Secret for Years Reveals Its Flaw - a Backdoor
A secret encryption cipher baked into radio systems used by critical infrastructure workers, police, and others around the world is finally seeing sunlight. Researchers say it isn’t pretty

By Kim Zetter
Wired
July 25, 2023

For more than 25 years, a technology used for critical data and voice radio communications around the world has been shrouded in secrecy to prevent anyone from closely scrutinizing its security properties for vulnerabilities. But now it’s finally getting a public airing thanks to a small group of researchers in the Netherlands who got their hands on its viscera and found serious flaws, including a deliberate backdoor.

The backdoor, known for years by vendors that sold the technology but not necessarily by customers, exists in an encryption algorithm baked into radios sold for commercial use in critical infrastructure. It’s used to transmit encrypted data and commands in pipelines, railways, the electric grid, mass transit, and freight trains. It would allow someone to snoop on communications to learn how a system works, then potentially send commands to the radios that could trigger blackouts, halt gas pipeline flows, or reroute trains.

Researchers found a second vulnerability in a different part of the same radio technology that is used in more specialized systems sold exclusively to police forces, prison personnel, military, intelligence agencies, and emergency services, such as the C2000 COMMUNICATION SYSTEM used by Dutch police, fire brigades, ambulance services, and Ministry of Defense for mission-critical voice and data communications. The flaw would let someone decrypt encrypted voice and data communications and send fraudulent messages to spread misinformation or redirect personnel and forces during critical times.

Three Dutch security analysts discovered the vulnerabilities - five in total - in a European radio standard called TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio), which is used in radios made by Motorola, Damm, Hytera, and others. The standard has been used in radios since the 90s, but the flaws remained unknown because encryption algorithms used in TETRA were kept secret until now.

The technology is not widely used in the US, where other radio standards are more commonly deployed. But Caleb Mathis, a consultant with AMPERE INDUSTRIAL SECURITY, conducted open source research for WIRED and uncovered contracts, press releases, and other documentation showing TETRA-based radios are used in at least two dozen critical infrastructures in the US. Because TETRA is embedded in radios supplied through resellers and system integrators like PowerTrunk, it’s difficult to identify who might be using them and for what. But Mathis helped WIRED identify several electric utilities, a state border control agency, an oil refinery, chemical plants, a major mass transit system on the East Coast, three international airports that use them for communications among security and ground crew personnel, and a US Army training base.

Carlo Meijer, Wouter Bokslag, and Jos Wetzels of MIDNIGHT BLUE in the Netherlands discovered the TETRA vulnerabilities - which they’re calling TETRA:BURST - in 2021 but agreed not to disclose them publicly until radio manufacturers could create patches and mitigations. Not all of the issues can be fixed with a patch, however, and it’s not clear which manufacturers have prepared them for customers. Motorola - one of the largest radio vendors - didn’t respond to repeated inquiries from WIRED.

The Dutch National Cyber Security Centre assumed the responsibility of notifying radio vendors and computer emergency response teams around the world about the problems, and of coordinating a timeframe for when the researchers should publicly disclose the issues.

In a brief email, NCSC spokesperson Miral Scheffer called TETRA “a crucial foundation for mission-critical communication in the Netherlands and around the world” and emphasized the need for such communications to always be reliable and secure, “especially during crisis situations.” She confirmed the vulnerabilities would let an attacker in the vicinity of impacted radios “intercept, manipulate or disturb” communications and said the NCSC had informed various organizations and governments, including Germany, Denmark, Belgium, and England, advising them how to proceed. A spokesperson for DHSs Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said they are aware of the vulnerabilities but wouldnҒt comment further.

The researchers say anyone using radio technologies should check with their manufacturer to determine if their devices are using TETRA and what fixes or mitigations are available.

The researchers plan to present their findings next month at the BlackHat security conference in Las Vegas, when they will release detailed technical analysis as well as the secret TETRA encryption algorithms that have been unavailable to the public until now. They hope others with more expertise will dig into the algorithms to see if they can find other issues.

TETRA was developed in the ‘90s by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, or ETSI. The standard includes four encryption algorithms- TEA1, TEA2, TEA3, and TEA4 - that can be used by radio manufacturers in different products, depending on their intended use and customer. TEA1 is for commercial uses; for radios used in critical infrastructure in Europe and the rest of the world, though, it is also designed for use by public safety agencies and military, according to an ETSI document, and the researchers found police agencies that use it.

TEA2 is restricted for use in Europe by police, emergency services, military, and intelligence agencies. TEA3 is available for police and emergency services outside Europe - in countries deemed “friendly” to the EU, such as Mexico and India; those not considered friendly- such as Iran - only had the option to use TEA1. TEA4, another commercial algorithm, is hardly used, the researchers say.

The vast majority of police forces around the world, aside from the US, use TETRA-based radio technology, the researchers found, after conducting open source research. TETRA is used by police forces in Belgium and the Scandinavian countries, East European countries like Serbia, Moldova, Bulgaria, and Macedonia, as well as in the Middle East in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.

Additionally, the Ministries of Defense in Bulgaria, Kazakhstan, and Syria use it. The Polish military counterintelligence agency uses it, as does the Finnish defense forces, and Lebanon and Saudi Arabias intelligence service, to name just a few.

Critical infrastructure in the US and other countries use TETRA for machine-to-machine communication in SCADA and other industrial control system settings - especially in widely distributed pipelines, railways, and electric grids, where wired and cellular communications may not be available.

Although the standard itself is publicly available for review, the encryption algorithms are only available with a signed NDA to trusted parties, such as radio manufacturers. The vendors have to include protections in their products to make it difficult for anyone to extract the algorithms and analyze them.

To obtain the algorithms, the researchers purchased an off-the-shelf Motorola MTM5400 radio and spent four months locating and extracting the algorithms from the secure enclave in the radio’s firmware. They had to use a number of zero-day exploits to defeat Motorola protections, which they reported to Motorola to fix. Once they reverse-engineered the algorithms, the first vulnerability they found was the backdoor in TEA1.

All four TETRA encryption algorithms use 80-bit keys, which, even more than two decades after their release, still provides sufficient security to prevent someone from cracking them, the researchers say. But TEA1 has a feature that reduces its key to just 32 bits - less than half the key’s length. The researchers were able to crack it in less than a minute using a standard laptop and just four ciphertexts.

Brian Murgatroyd, chair of the technical body at ETSI responsible for the TETRA standard, objects to calling this a backdoor. He says when they developed the standard, they needed an algorithm for commercial use that could meet export requirements to be used outside Europe, and that in 1995 a 32-bit key still provided security, though he acknowledges that with today’s computing power that’s not the case.

Matthew Green, a Johns Hopkins University cryptographer and professor, calls the weakened key a “disaster.”

“I wouldn’t say its equivalent to using no encryption, but it’s really, really bad,” he says.

Gregor Leander, a professor of computer science and cryptographer with a security research team known as CASA at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany, says it would be “stupid” for critical infrastructure to use TEA1, especially without adding end-to-end encryption on top of it. “Nobody should rely on this,” he says.

Murgatroyd insists the most anyone can do with the backdoor is decrypt and eavesdrop on data and conversations. TETRA has strong authentication, he says, that would prevent anyone from injecting false communication.

“That’s not true,” says Wetzels. TETRA only requires that devices authenticate themselves to the network, but data and voice communications between radios are not digitally signed or otherwise authenticated. The radios and base stations trust that any device that has the proper encryption key is authenticated, so someone who can crack the key as the researchers did can encrypt their own messages with it and send them to base stations and other radios.

While the TEA1 weakness has been withheld from the public, it’s apparently widely known in the industry and governments. In a 2006 US STATE DEPARTMENT CABLE leaked to Wikileaks, the US embassy in Rome describes an Italian radio manufacturer asking about exporting TETRA radio systems to municipal police forces in Iran. The US pushed back on the plan, so the company representative reminded the US that encryption in the TETRA-based radio system they planned to sell to Iran is “less than 40-bits,” implying that the US shouldn’t object to the sale because the system isn’t using a strong key.

The second major vulnerability the researchers found isn’t in one of the secret algorithms, but it affects all of them. The issue lies in the standard itself and how TETRA handles time syncing and keystream generation.

When a TETRA radio contacts a base station, they initiate communication with a time sync. The network broadcasts the time, and the radio establishes that it’s in sync. Then they both generate the same keystream, which is tied to that timestamp, to encrypt the subsequent communication.

“The problem is that the network broadcasts the time in packets that are unauthenticated and unencrypted,” says Wetzels.

As a result, an attacker can use a simple device to intercept and collect encrypted communication passing between a radio and base station, while noting the timestamp that initiated the communication. Then he can use a rogue base station to contact the same radio or a different one in the same network and broadcast the time that matches the time associated with the intercepted communication. The radio is dumb and believes the correct time is whatever a base station says it is. So it will generate the keystream that was used at that time to encrypt the communication the attacker collected. The attacker recovers that keystream and can use it to decrypt the communication collected earlier.

To inject false messages, he would use his base station to tell a radio that the time is tomorrow noon and ask the radio to generate the keystream associated with that future time. Once the attacker has it, he can use the keystream to encrypt his rogue messages, and the next day at noon send them to a target radio using the correct keystream for that time.

Wetzels imagines Mexican drug cartels could use this to intercept police communications to eavesdrop on investigations and operations or deceive police with false messages sent to radios. The attacker needs to be near a target radio, but the proximity is only dependent on the strength of the rogue base stations signal and the terrain.

“You can do this within a distance of tens of meters,” he says. The rogue base station would cost $5,000 or less to build.

ETSI’s Murgatroyd downplays the attack, saying TETRA’s strong authentication requirements would prevent a non-authenticated base station from injecting messages. Wetzel disagrees, saying TETRA only requires devices to authenticate to the network, not to each other.

The researchers didn’t find any weaknesses in the TEA2 algorithm used by police, military, and emergency services in Europe, but they did initially think they found another backdoor in TEA3. Given that TEA3 is the exportable version of TEA2, there was good reason to believe it might also have a backdoor to meet export requirements.

They thought they found something suspicious in a substitution box, or S-box, used in the algorithm, which contains a bad property they say would “never appear in serious cryptography.” The researchers didn’t have sufficient skill to examine it to determine if it was exploitable. But Leander’s team did examine it, and he says it’s not.

“In many ciphers if you used such a box it would break the cipher very badly,” he says. “But the way it’s used in TEA3, we couldn’t see that this is exploitable.” This doesn’t mean someone else might not find something in it, he says, but he’d “be very surprised if it leads to an attack thats practical.”

With regard to fixes for the other problems the researchers found, Murgatroyd says ETSI fixed the keystream/timestamp issue in a revised TETRA standard published last October, and they created three additional algorithms for vendors to use, including one that replaces TEA1. Vendors have created firmware updates that fix the keystream/timestamp issue. But the problem with TEA1 cannot be fixed with an update. The only solution for that is to use another algorithm - not an easy thing to switch - or to add end-to-end encryption on top of TETRA, something Wetzels says is impractical. It’s very expensive since the encryption has to be applied to every device, it requires some downtime to do the upgrade - something not always feasible for critical infrastructure - and can create incompatibility issues with other components.

As for asking their vendor to switch out TEA1 for one of the new algorithms meant to replace it, Wetzels says this is problematic as well, since ETSI plans to keep those algorithms secret, like the others, asking users to trust again that the algorithms have no critical weakness.

“There’s a very high chance that [the replacement algorithm for TEA1] will be weakened” as well, he says.

The researchers don’t know if the vulnerabilities they found are being actively exploited. But they did find evidence in the Edward Snowden leaks that indicate the US National Security Agency (NSA) and UKs GCHQ intelligence agency targeted TETRA for eavesdropping in the past. One documentdiscusses an NSA and Australian Signals Directorate project to collect Malaysian police communications during a climate change conference in Bali in 2007 and mentions that they obtained some TETRA collections on Indonesian security forces’ communications.

Another Snowden leak describes GCHQ, possibly with NSA assistance, collecting TETRA communications in Argentina in 2010 when tensions rose between it and the UK over oil exploration rights in a deep-sea oil field off the coast of the Falkland Islands. It describes an operation to collect high-priority military and leadership communications of Argentina and reveals that the project resulted in successful TETRA collections.

“This doesn’t indicate they exploited these vulnerabilities that we found,” Wetzels says. “But it does show that state-sponsored actors are actively looking at and collecting these TETRA networks, even in the early 2000s.”

SOURCE

Posted by Elvis on 07/25/23 •
Section Privacy And Rights
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Monday, July 17, 2023

Burned Out Boomers Part 10 - Senior Homelessness

image: senior homelessness

Housing and homelessness resources

The NATIONAL COALITION FOR THE HOMELESS (NCH) is a nationwide network dedicated to ending and preventing homelessness. NCH is a nonprofit made up of currently or formerly unhoused individuals, activists, and community and faith-based service providers. The coalition works locally to help communities along with advocating for legislation at the federal level. If you need help, visit THIS DIRECTORY for resources in your community. If you would like to donate or help, click HERE.

The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT offers several housing services for seniors. The government site provides links to affordable housing programs and resource locators.

CATHOLIC CHARITIES USA is a nonprofit founded over a century ago by church members committed to helping people experiencing homelessness. In 2021, Catholic Charities agencies offered 1.9 million nights of emergency shelter and created permanent housing for more than 34,000 families, seniors, veterans and others. If you are in need of local help or services, visit their AGENCY LOCATOR MAP.

The NATIONAL ALLIANCE TO END HOMELESSNESS is a nonprofit devoted to preventing and ending homelessness in the United States. The organization focuses on researching and analyzing poverty data to improve federal policies. They also offer guides and training for shelters and housing providers. If you would like to support this work, click HERE to donate or click HERE for other ways to help.

- Ryan Thomas

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image: boomer cohort effect

Boomers Own Half of U.S. Wealth. So Why Are We Seeing More Homeless Boomers?

Wall Street Journal on YouTube
May 14, 2024

Baby boomers have the highest median net worth by generation, holding about half of U.S. wealth - with much of it tied in real estate. And while many of these older boomers aren’t moving out of their homes, younger boomers reaching retirement are increasingly facing homelessness.

Watch the video HERE.

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‘It’s so scary’: More and more seniors are becoming homeless. Here’s why.

By Anita Snow
Associated Press
April 11, 2022

Karla Finocchio’s slide into homelessness began when she split with her partner of 18 years and temporarily moved in with a cousin.

The 55-year-old planned to use her $800-a-month disability check to get an apartment after back surgery. But she soon was sleeping in her old pickup protected by her German Shepherd mix Scrappy, unable to afford housing in Phoenix, where median monthly rents soared 33% during the coronavirus pandemic to over $1,220 for a one-bedroom, according to ApartmentList.com.

Finocchio is one face of America’s graying homeless population, a rapidly expanding group of destitute and desperate people 50 and older suddenly without a permanent home after a job loss, divorce, family death or health crisis during a pandemic.

“We’re seeing a huge boom in senior homelessness,” said Kendra Hendry, a caseworker at Arizona’s largest shelter, where older people make up about 30% of those staying there. “These are not necessarily people who have mental illness or substance abuse problems. They are people being pushed into the streets by rising rents.”

Academics project their numbers will nearly triple over the next decade, challenging policymakers from Los Angeles to New York to imagine new ideas for sheltering the last of the baby boomers as they get older, sicker and less able to pay spiraling rents. Advocates say much more housing is needed, especially for extremely low-income people.

Navigating sidewalks in wheelchairs and walkers, the aging homeless have medical ages greater than their years, with mobility, cognitive and chronic problems like diabetes. Many contracted COVID-19 or couldn’t work because of pandemic restrictions.

“It’s so scary,” said Finocchio, her green eyes clouding with tears while sitting on the cushioned seat of her rolling walker. “I don’t want to be on the street in a wheelchair and living in a tent.”

It was Finocchio’s first time being homeless. She’s now at Ozanam Manor, a transitional shelter the Society of St. Vincent de Paul runs in Phoenix for people 50 and up seeking permanent housing.

At the 60-bed shelter, Finocchio sleeps in a college-style women’s dorm, with a single bed and small desk where she displays Scrappy’s photo. The dog with perky black ears is staying with Finocchio’s brother.

‘I’d always worked.. .. And then all of a sudden things went downhill’

A stroke started 67-year-old Army veteran Lovia Primous on his downward spiral, costing him his job and forcing him to sleep in his Honda Accord. He was referred to the transitional shelter after recovering from COVID-19.

“Life has been hard,” said Primous, who grew up in a once-segregated African American neighborhood of south Phoenix. “I’m just trying to stay positive.”

Cardelia Corley ended up on the streets of Los Angeles County after the hours at her telemarketing job were cut.

Now 65, Corley said she was surprised to meet so many others who were also working, including a teacher and a nurse who lost her home following an illness.

“I’d always worked, been successful, put my kid through college,” the single mother said. “And then all of a sudden things went downhill.”

Corley traveled all night aboard buses and rode commuter trains to catch a catnap.

“And then I would go to Union Station downtown and wash up in the bathroom,” said Corley. She recently moved into a small East Hollywood apartment with help from The People Concern, a Los Angeles nonprofit.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said in its 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report the share of homeless people 50 and over in emergency shelters or transitional housing jumped from 22.9% in 2007 to 33.8% in 2017. More precise and recent nationwide figures aren’t available because HUD has since changed the methodology in the reports and lumps older people in with all adults over 25.

A 2019 study of aging homeless people led by the University of Pennsylvania drew on 30 years of census data to project the U.S. population of people 65 and older experiencing homelessness will nearly triple from 40,000 to 106,000 by 2030, resulting in a public health crisis as their age-related medical problems multiply.

Dr. Margot Kushel, a physician who directs the Center for Vulnerable Populations at the University of California, San Francisco, said her research in Oakland on how homelessness affects health has shown nearly half of the tens of thousands of older homeless people in the U.S. are on the streets for the first time.

“We are seeing that retirement is no longer the golden dream,” said Kushel. “A lot of the working poor are destined to retire onto the streets.”

That’s especially true of younger baby boomers, now in their late 50s to late 60s, who don’t have pensions or 401(k) accounts. About half of both women and men ages 55 to 66 have no retirement savings, according to the census.

Born between 1946 and 1964, baby boomers now number over 70 million, the census shows. With the oldest boomers in their mid-70s, all will hit age 65 by 2030.

The aged homeless also tend to have smaller Social Security checks after years working off the books. A third of some 900 older homeless people in Phoenix said in a recent survey they have no income at all.

Teresa Smith, CEO of the San Diego nonprofit Dreams for Change, said she’s also noticed the homeless population is trending older. The group operates two safe parking lots for people living in cars.

Susan, who stayed at one lot, spoke only if her last name wasn’t used because of the stigma surrounding homelessness.

The 63-year-old had kidney cancer while caring for her mother, then lost their two-bedroom apartment after her mom died. The cancer is now in remission.

Susan slept in her car with her dog at one of the gated parking lots that provide a bathroom, showers and a shared refrigerator and microwave.

She was stunned to see a man in his 80s living in a car there, calling it “just wrong.”

But residents enjoyed the community, grilling meals together and even surprising one in their group with a birthday cake.

Dreams for Change recently helped Susan get a one-bedroom apartment with a housing voucher after months of waiting.

With a washer and dryer, patio, dishwasher and bathtub, “I feel like I’m at the Ritz,” she said.

Donald Whitehead Jr., executive director of the Washington-based advocacy group National Coalition for the Homeless, said that seeing older people sleep in cars and abandoned buildings should worry everyone.

“We now accept these things that we would have been outraged about just 20 years ago,” said Whitehead.

Whitehead said Black, Latino and Indigenous people who came of age in the 1980s amid recession and high unemployment rates are disproportionately represented among the homeless.

Many nearing retirement never got well-paying jobs and didn’t buy homes because of discriminatory real estate practices.

“So many of us didn’t put money into retirement programs, thinking that Social Security was going to take care of us,” said Rudy Soliz, 63, operations director for Justa Center, which offers meals, showers, a mail drop and other services to the aged homeless in Phoenix.

The average monthly Social Security retirement payment as of December was $1,658. Many older homeless people have much smaller checks because they worked fewer years or earned less than others.

People 65 and over with limited resources and who didn’t work enough to earn retirement benefits may be eligible for Supplemental Security Income of $841 a month.

Finocchio said limited contributions were made for her into Social Security and Medicare because most of her jobs were off the books in telephone sales or watering office plants.

“The programs approved by Congress to prevent destitution among the elderly and the disabled are not working,” said Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor who led the 2019 study of the aging homeless in New York, Boston and Los Angeles County. “And the problem is only going to get worse.”

Jennifer Molinsky, project director for the Aging Society Program at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, agreed the federal government must do more to ensure older Americans are better housed.

“The younger boomers were hit especially hard in the Great Recession, many losing their homes close to retirement,” Molinsky said.

‘We need more dignified, safer and comfortable places for our seniors’

Longer-term shelters specifically for older people are helping get some off the streets at least temporarily.

The Arizona Department of Housing last year provided a $7.5 million block grant for the state’s largest shelter to buy an old hotel to temporarily house up to 170 older people without a place to stay. The city of Phoenix kicked in $4 million for renovations.

CEO Lisa Glow of Central Arizona Shelter Services, which runs the state’s biggest shelter in downtown Phoenix, said the hotel is expected to open by year’s end.

Residents will stay around 90 days while caseworkers help find permanent housing

“We need more dignified, safer and comfortable places for our seniors,” said Glow, noting that physical limitations make it difficult for older people at the 500-bed shelter downtown.

Nestor Castro, 67, was luckier than many who lose permanent homes.

Castro was in his late 50s living in New York when his mother died and he was hospitalized with bleeding ulcers, losing their apartment. He initially stayed with his sister in Boston, then for more than three years at a YMCA in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Just before last Christmas, Castro got a permanent subsidized apartment through Hearth Inc., a Boston nonprofit dedicated to ending homelessness among older adults. Residents pay 30% of their income to stay in one if Hearth’s 228 units.

Castro pays with part of his Social Security check and a part-time job. He also volunteers at a food pantry and a nonprofit that assists people with housing.

“Housing is a big problem around here because they are building luxury apartments that no one can afford,” he said. “A place down the street is $3,068 a month for a studio.”

Hearth Inc. CEO Mark Hinderlie said far more housing needs to be built and made affordable for the aged, especially now as the numbers of graying homeless people surge.

“It’s cheaper to house people than leave them homeless,” Hinderlie said. “You have to rethink what housing can be.”

Janie Har in Marin County, California, and Christopher Weber in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

SOURCE

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More seniors are becoming homeless, and experts say the trend is likely to worsen

By Hannah Grabenstein
PBS News Hour Nation
March 3, 2023

MEMPHIS, Tenn.  On a chilly January morning, Tony Thomas stopped by a small house with the hopes of picking up some breakfast and coffee.

That Thursday, dozens of people were milling around in near-freezing weather in the backyard of Manna House, a nonprofit serving the local unhoused population. They waited for showers, clothes or hygiene kits, which included toothpaste, lotion, socks and hand warmers. Others ate or sipped coffee with powdered creamer and sugar. Most tried to keep warm, including Thomas, who wasn’t wearing gloves.

At 50, Thomas and many of the other people at Manna House, are part of a growing cohort of homeless older Americans, though he is on the younger side of that trend. As baby boomers age into senior citizens, a series of recessions and the lack of a strong social safety net have pushed more and more elderly people into homelessness - a number thats only expected to rise.

Thomas said he had had a relatively normal life in Memphis. He was born in the city and moved back after getting a cooking certificate in North Carolina. He has two grown children, who live out of state, and he had a good job as a chef at a restaurant in a Memphis suburb. But after pleading guilty to aggravated assault in 2016, he served six years in prison, upending his life.

When he was released in Jan. 2022, he was 49 years old and everything had changed. A felony conviction made it nearly impossible for him to find work, and many of the people he could have stayed with had died while he was incarcerated.

A year later, Thomas is still homeless, he told the PBS NewsHour.

There is no current federal data on homelessness disaggregated by age, except for the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s YEARLY REPORTS, which differentiate between youth, considered age 25 and younger, and adults.

But experts in homelessness note that the average age of sample unhoused populations on community levels has risen over the past four decades.

Thomas’ grown daughter lives many hours south in Alabama and has suggested her father stay with her, but he doesn’t want to impose on her family. Plus, he said, he worries about unpredictable Alabama weather, like tornadoes and hurricanes.

Though Thomas carries nearly all his belongings in a small backpack and regularly sleeps on the street, hes devoted to his neatness, shaving his graying beard regularly and keeping his skin moisturized with donated lotion. The fleece he wears under a well-maintained leather jacket matches his ear warmers, and his sneakers are a bright, clean blue - his favorite color.

At Manna House, co-founder and co-director Peter Gathje serves as many people as possible during their limited hours, often seeing the same crowd Monday and Thursday mornings for breakfast, showers and warmth, and Monday evenings for takeaway dinners. The other days of the week, unhoused people rely on other nonprofits for food or supplies, guests at Manna House told the NewsHour.

Gathje said he’s seen the average age of his guests increase over the 17 years the organization has been open.

|Some of that might just be that everybody who was on the streets when they were 40 or 50 is still on the streets. But we do see new people. And of course a lot of our guests who were in their 40s and 50s are dead,” Gathje said.

A problem on the rise

In 2004, Dr. Margot Kushel, director of UCSF’s Center for Vulnerable Populations and Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative, and her colleagues compared the populations of homeless individuals over time using historical data from studies of people in San Francisco with HIV and AIDS. They discovered that among unhoused single adults without children, the percentage older than 50 had INCREASED FROM 11 PERCENT in 1990 to around 37 percent in 2003.

In subsequent studies, Kushe’s research group found that number has risen to about 50 percent today.

Elderly homelessness has been rare within the contemporary homeless problem. We’ve always had very few people over 60 whove been homeless historically. But of course that’s changed as this group has come in. It’s now arguably the fastest rising group,” said Dennis Culhane, professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania.

The vast majority of homeless adults are white, but when weighted for demographics, people of color are disproportionately represented among unhoused populations.

According to the 2022 STATE OF HOMELESSNESS REPORT by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, although 18 out of every 10,000 Americans are homeless, that number jumps to 52 for Black Americans, 45 for Native Americans and a whopping 109 for Pacific Islanders.

The ballooning population of older homeless people is composed largely of YOUNGER BABY BOOMERS, who endured the recessions of the late 1970s and early 1980s as well as the Great Recession in 2008.

In 1983, young Black men in their 20s had an unemployment rate of nearly 25 percent, Culhane noted in a 2019 report on rising elderly homelessness. The same report indicated that in New York City, Los Angeles County and Boston, the population of homeless people older than 65 will likely triple by 2030.

It’s this large group of people whose lives have been essentially thrown off track by the economy of the 80s. And there’s strong research that shows that if you don’t get into the labor market in your 20s, the odds that you will are very significantly diminished,” Culhane said.

There’s no single reason for the rise in the older homeless population. Weak social safety nets, mass incarceration policies and an insufficient supply of affordable housing are among the many factors, according to Kushel, Culhane and other experts.

Unlike many other intractable social issues, the phenomenon of people having nowhere to go is relatively new, Culhane said. Fifty years ago, indigent people often lived in low-income housing in areas like Skid Row in Los Angeles, the Bowery in New York City and the red-light district in Boston, Culhane said. While often unsafe or unclean, they were still homes, with walls and a roof.

But beginning in the 1980s, with rising unemployment, a deepening recession and a shift away from the construction of affordable housing, many low-income people often Black and Hispanic - started to drift into homelessness. Urban renewal revitalized downtowns that once housed many of the area’s poorer people, and the nation’s supply of affordable housing dwindled.

Experts the PBS NewsHour spoke with disagree on the extent to which President Ronald Reagan’s policies impacted the current crisis of elderly homelessness, but all agree his administration played at least some part. Among the contributing factors was the era’s anti-welfare rhetoric, which demonized people relying on the nation’s social safety net, Culhane said. That social perspective was political red meat for Republican politicians, who spent the next decade-plus constricting it.

Under Reagan’s policies, the nation’s affordable housing supply began to shrink. Today, 73 percent of extremely low-income renters defined as households whose incomes are at or below the poverty line or 30 percent of their area’s median income PAY MORE THAN HALF THEIR INCOME FOR HOUSING, according to the Center on Budget and Priority Policies.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, across the country, there are only 36 affordable and available rental homes for every 100 extremely low-income renter households. Some states, such as Nevada and California, have fewer than 25 affordable rental homes available for every 100 extremely low-income renter households; only nine states have more than 50 available for every 100 households.

In total, more than 1.7 million extremely low-income renter households with an older adult spend more than half of their income on rent and utilities, according to a 2021 brief from Justice in Aging.

“This is a Reagan-era problem, but we haven’t fixed it since,” said Eric Tars, legal director at the National Homelessness Law Center. “It has been 40 years since Reagan was in office. He, and the Congress at that point, were the ones who cut the affordable housing budget by more than half. But then every subsequent Congress never made up that gap. And it hasn"t been made up at the state or local level.”

There are other direct and indirect reasons for homelessness. The federal government’s Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, is insufficient for many people and difficult to qualify for, Culhane said. It also has not increased commensurate with inflation, even with cost of living increases, he added.

“Many people who are low-income also have network impoverishment,” Tars said. “It’s not just that they are poor, but so are many others in their familial and social circles. People at risk of experiencing homelessness are less likely to have people who can provide personal safety nets for them.”

“Older people are also more likely to experience health issues, which can lead to medical debt,” Tars noted.

“The rise in elderly homelessness,” he said, “is not the result of individual bad choices people are making.”

“This is an injury, this is a chronic illness, because people are old, and our social safety net isn’t catching those people,” Tars said.

Lower life expectancies

Medical issues don’t just cause homelessness; they can also be the result of being unhoused. Homelessness places an enormous burden on people’s bodies, research shows, with experts often saying unhoused people are more biologically similar to housed people who are 10 to 20 years older.

In her research, Kushel has found that among the unhoused population who are 50 and older, about half had been homeless at some point before they were 50, while the other half were homeless for the first time like Thomas.

The latter group typically had worked their whole lives, she said, hovering around the poverty level but always with housing. But a combination of a few life changes forced them from their homes. These events included losing a job, getting sick, a spouse or partner getting sick, separation from a partner, or the death of a partner or parent.

And for those who first become homeless after 50, life expectancies can be even worse than the already early death rate for the general elderly homeless population.

In her research of unhoused people older than 50 in Oakland, California, Kushel found that their median age of death was 64. Compared to the general Oakland population and adjusted for age, the mortality rate for homeless people was 3.5 times higher, according to one of Kushelҗs studies.

Theres evidence that the wave of elderly homeless people will crest around 2030, Culhane said, and then it will start to recede, largely due to the deaths of people in the boomer generation.

A shortage of support

“Manna House serves around 250 people weekly,” Gathje estimated. There aren’t a lot of spaces for community for people without homes, he added.

The vast majority of people are so motivated to get out [of homelessness], they want desperately to get out, and what they need is a little help. And so we’re not talking about a population that cant be helped,” Culhane said. No, “this is a group of people who resoundingly demonstrate that they want the hell out of this hell that they’re living in. And we need to stand beside them and support them in their own self-determination and their own basic survival instinct.”

Thomas knows that feeling. He doesn’t want to be homeless, but he sees no way out. In the year he’s been homeless, he’s found that without a steady source of income, he has nowhere to turn. He wants to work, he said.

Being homeless is tough for Thomas, and scary. When he has wifi, he’ll watch the news on the cracked screen of his cell phone so he knows what areas to avoid. Hes heard of people getting harassed or attacked, he said, and he feels that because homeless people have nowhere to go, they’re easy prey for those who might harm them.

Around 10 a.m., Manna House started closing up for the day. Folks in the heated tent in the backyard grabbed their coffee and their belongings and made their way out front. They would head off to nearby churches, or parks where other food was being given away, or like Thomas, they’d ride the bus until the evening, trying to stay warm.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/17/23 •
Section Dying America • Section Next Recession, Next Depression • Section Personal
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Sunday, July 09, 2023

To Scab or Not To Scab

image: union workers
 
A good contract for UPS workers adds pressure for improvements at these competitors, some of which are non-union.
- UPS and Teamsters negotiations matter to us all.
 
“Civilization, as we know it, is largely the creation of psychopaths. All civilizations, our own included, have been based on slavery and warfare.” Incidentally, the latter term is a euphemism for mass murder.
- Twilight of the Psychopaths, 2008

---

Rarely a political thought goes through my head without thinking about OCCUPY WALL STREET.

It really was a MOVEMENT TOO BIG TO FAIL. But it did.

Resistance, real resistance, to the corporate state was displayed when a couple of thousand protesters, clutching mops and brooms, early Friday morning forced the owners of Zuccotti Park and the New York City police to back down from a proposed attempt to expel them in order to clean the premises. These protesters in that one glorious moment did what the traditional liberal establishment has steadily refused to do - fight back. And it was deeply moving to watch the corporate rats scamper back to their holes on Wall Street. It lent a whole new meaning to the phrase - too big to fail.

Tinkering with the corporate state will not work. We will either be plunged into neo-feudalism and environmental catastrophe or we will wrest power from corporate hands.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power.

The truth of America is understood only when you listen to voices in our impoverished rural enclaves, prisons and the urban slums, when you hear the words of our unemployed, those who have lost their homes or cannot pay their medical bills, our elderly and our children, especially the quarter of the nations children who depend on food stamps to eat, and all who are marginalized. There is more reality expressed about the American experience by the debt-burdened young men and women protesting in the parks than by all the chatter of the well-paid pundits and experts that pollutes the airwaves.

It layed a lot of ugly things about my country - our country - out in the open, and along with America’s favorite politician - BERNIE - opened what I THOUGHT was a door for that “POLITICAL REVOLUTION” Sanders has been talking about for most of my life.

Then we tried to roll out the President’s chair for him in 2016, and again in 2020.

But Sanders walked away both times.

The political revolution NEVER HAPPENED.

It’s a sad day to wake up and realize Sanders may have sold us out.

Was his betrayal just part of the GAME OF POLITICS that keeps us going around in circles while clinging to a little hope something will stir enough of us up to really change things for the good of the people, the planet, and all it’s life?

If so, then I consider the guy a psychopath no different than the OTHERS in the PARASITE CLASS of government and runners of big business.

In 2016 the universe delivered us President Trump.  A lot like Sanders with his talk of “making America great again”.  At first I thought he was pretty cool killing the TPP.  And he got people out in the street.  Everybody know what happened January 6, 2021.  It should be a wake up call to things other than an a big, bad insurrection of democracy, but we need to FIGURE THAT OUT FOR OURSELVES and recognize FASCISM hiding in PLAIN SIGHT.

And now we have President Biden BETRAYING THE WORKING CLASS worse than his mentor Obama.

After a 3-year saga of stalled contract negotiations between the country’s freight rail carriers and the 12 unions representing over 100,000 railroad workers, “pro-union” President Biden and Congress last week averted a national rail “shutdown” by overriding the democratic will of rail workers and forcing a contract down their throats.

That’s a lot of old men giving all old men a bad name.

NO WONDER younger people hate us.

In 2009

I heard on the grapevine AT&T is looking for people with DS1/3 testing experience to possibly SCAB if the CWA does strike. I know a lot of desperate people they layed off years ago that need money so bad, they may be willing to swallow their pride, and hurt the American labor movement - for a couple of quick bucks.

Can you blame THIS GUY?

I have been working for the last two years as a TELCO CONTRACTOR on piecework.

I have enough for the rent on the 1st if I don’t eat.

I have done a couple odds and ends but there is absolutely NO WORK out there.

Even minimum wage jobs are hard to find. So should I go do some strike work or go to a homeless shelter next month?

I mean IF THESE GUYS don’t want to WORK I do.

I have NEVER CONSIDERED anything like this before or thought I would be in THIS SITUATION.

I hate myself for the few times I scabbed.  It felt like selling my SOUL to the devil. 

This time me and my spotless driving record aren’t going to try to get a temp job scabbing for UPS drivers if its members GO ON STRIKE NEXT MONTH.  Instead you can find me picketing the neighborhood UPS building.

The Teamsters have said they want an agreement that “guarantees better pay for all workers, eliminates a two-tier wage system, increases full-time jobs, resolves safety and health concerns, and provides stronger protections against managerial harassment.”

The Teamsters are still pushing to raise wages for part-time workers at the company, with union leaders pointing to UPS’ rise in profits during the pandemic.

A line needs to be drawn, and elders like me need to show our kids we haven’t lost our morality.

The Teamster’s x-boss JIMMY HOFFA may be just as bad as the CWA’s RALPH MALY by not looking out for their members as much as expected - but the issue now is people power and solidarity of the 99%.

Imagine if working class people everywhere - pilots, bus drivers, railroad workers, retirees, etc - all walked out together in support of the UPS folks.

My bet is a lot of boomers already retired, or a few years from retirement, aren’t ready to draw a line and join a massive general strike.

Too selfish.  Too afraid.  Too busy drinking pina coladas at the pool.  Or maybe a CRUISE SHIP.

It gives us a bad name.

---

‘Get Back to the Negotiating Table,’ Says Teamsters as UPS Trains Scabs for Strike
“UPS is making clear it doesn’t view its workforce as a priority,” the union said. “UPS should stop wasting time and money on training strikebreakers.”

By Jessica Corbett
Common Dreams
July 14, 2023

After negotiations between the United Parcel Service and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters BROKE DOWN last week, UPS on Friday ANNOUINCED “business continuity training” to prepare for a POTENTIAL STRIKE by 340,000 union members next month.

“We remain focused on reaching an agreement with the Teamsters that is a win for UPS employees, our customers, our union, and our company,” the shipping giant said. “While we have made great progress and are close to reaching an agreement, we have a responsibility as an essential service provider to take steps to help ensure we can deliver our customers’ packages if the Teamsters choose to strike.”

“Over the coming weeks, many of our U.S. employees will participate in training that would help them safely serve our customers if there is a labor disruption. This temporary plan has no effect on current operations and the industry-leading service our people continue to provide for our customers,” UPS added, claiming that such activities “will not take away from our ongoing efforts to finalize a new contract” with union workers.

Meanwhile, the Teamsters told The Associated Press on Friday that “UPS is making clear it doesn’t view its workforce as a priority.”

“Corporate executives are quick to brag about industry-leading service and even more quickly forget the Teamster members who perform that service,” the union said. “UPS should stop wasting time and money on training strikebreakers and get back to the negotiating table with a real economic offer.”

As the Teamsters EXPLAINED earlier this month, the union is fighting for a deal that “guarantees better pay for all workers, eliminates a two-tier wage system, increases full-time jobs, resolves safety and health concerns, and provides stronger protections against managerial harassment.”

Last month, 97% of UPS workers represented by the Teamsters voted to strike if there is no deal by July 31. The union has been holding practice pickets, including one in Brooklyn, New York on Friday that was joined by SEAN O’BRIEN, the Teamsters general president.

“For too long, this multibillion-dollar corporation has padded its bottom line with the unpaid wages of our members who sacrificed themselves and their families during the pandemic,” O’Brien said at the event, according to the union. “UPS is not ready for the fury of 340,000 Teamsters.”

After the Friday rally, O’Brien made clear that the union is still prepared to negotiate with UPS, telling Reuters that “the clock is on our side, not theirs. I assume at some point they’ll be reaching out looking to try and get a deal.”

The last strike by UPS workers represented by the union was in 1997 and is considered a major labor win in U.S. history. As Labor Notes recalled in 2017: “For 15 days, Teamsters shut down UPS nationwide. Managers struggled to make even a tiny fraction of deliveries… Out of options and running out of time, management surrendered on every key demand.”

If the looming strike happens, “things could be a lot worse this time around, putting even more pressure on companies, consumers, and UPS. That’s because the ECONOMY a quarter-century ago is entirely different than now - one where package delivery is more important than it’s ever been,” Vox REPORTED Friday. “While competitors like FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service could pick up some of the deliveries, experts said logistics networks are too strained to fill many of the gaps that would be created.”

“A 10-day strike would cost the economy more than $7 billion and be the costliest work stoppage in at least a century, according to a new STUDY by Anderson Economic Group, which researches labor disruptions,” Vox noted. “That includes $4.6 billion in losses to consumers and businesses that rely on UPS, as well as more than a billion in lost wages and $800 million in company losses.”

About Common Dreams: Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

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Posted by Elvis on 07/09/23 •
Section American Solidarity
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