Confronting the collapse of the American Dream

When the United States’ housing bubble burst six years ago, millions of Americans were left homeless. Since the foreclosure crisis and the subsequent collapse of the American economy, more than 4 million people have lost their homes. Today, nearly 1 in 3 borrowers owes more on their mortgage than their home is worth. The 2012 documentary “For Sale: The American Dream” illustrates how families in California and Chicago are facing the frontlines of the collapse of the American Dream.

Evictions change lives throughout the country.

Deputy Art Gonzalez of the Sacramento Sheriff Department is charged with removing dozens, sometimes hundreds, of individuals from their homes every week. “For Sale: The American Dream” chronicles one such incident in which Gonzalez removes a single mother and her children from their home. He said that before the housing crisis, “If you got a foreclosure it was a very rare, very rare thing. Now, it’s almost like the opposite. There’s so many of them now it’s become the norm.”

Those he removes from their homes have less than 20 minutes to gather whatever they can carry. “I think you learn to block it,” Gonzalez said. “I think I would be a basket case if I let it get to me.”

Throughout California, “vulture investors” crowd auctions daily to purchase homes that have been foreclosed upon.

“We are often portrayed as the bad people,” said realty investor Amy Chen. “But the fact is, if we don’t buy the property then the bank takes the property back. Everybody has to take responsibility. I pay my mortgage…so everybody else has to.”

America’s homeless look for answers.

Millions of Americans are emerging from the housing crisis without a place to call home. In Chicago, nearly 250,000 public housing units have been demolished since the 1980s as funding has been slashed. Residents’ difficulties have only grown in the past six years. Housing organizer JR Fleming explained that while many Americans facing foreclosure need the safety net of public housing, that safety net does not exist anymore.

The documentary illustrates that for too many in the country, economic recovery isn’t even on the horizon.

“People always talk about the America Dream. It’s not even a reality anymore,” Fleming lamented. “A dream is something you can aspire to hope to have, and you can’t have that dream of a house in America anymore.”

Social theorist David Harvey puts it like this: “You have all of these empty houses in the midst of a population that has a real need for decent housing. And you cannot put the two together because the income stream they have is not sufficient to satisfy the banks.”

Volunteers of America of Greater Ohio offers hope.

At Volunteers of America, we’ve made it our responsibility to reach out to those who have lost their homes. We assist thousands in Ohio through our services and programs like transitional housing, permanent supportive housing and affordable housing. These programs are made possible through contributions of neighbors like you. When you donate your car, truck, motorcycle, boat or RV to Volunteers of America, you are supporting homeless men and families in Ohio cities like Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland get back on their feet.

Donating your car is easy. Start by filling out our online form or calling (800) 225-0732. We’ll tow your donated vehicle for free, even if it hasn’t run in years. Please consider donating your unwanted vehicle to Volunteers of America, and put a homeless veteran on the path to independence.