HOOVERVILLES IN THE GREAT DEPRESSION
The Great Depression was a significant event in world history and was of particular importance to American history. It was a worldwide economic recession that occurred primarily during the 1930s. A recession is a term that refers to a general economic downturn resulting in high levels of unemployment and a loss in consumer spending. As a result, during the Great Depression, many people struggled to find work while businesses struggled to survive with an overall reduction in the sales of goods and services. Historians have identified several different causes of the events of the Great Depression, including: the stock market crash of 1929, the purchasing of stocks on margin, the wide income gap between the wealthy and the poor, the loss of consumer spending, the failure of banks to deal with the crisis, protectionism and the weather conditions of the American Midwest.
A key feature of the Great Depression in the United States was the high levels of unemployment that resulted from the Stock Market Crash of 1929. For example, at the heights of the Great Depression the unemployment rate reached as high as 25%. Due to this high level of unemployment, life for many people in the Great Depression was difficult. In particular, poverty among the working-class was widespread during the Great Depression and it impacted their lives in several ways including housing.
For example, the lack of income meant that people could not afford basic housing. Many people had their homes or farms foreclosed on by the banks. This means that because the people could not make payments the bank forced them out of their property. As such, the Great Depression caused many people to search for other ways of life and led to high levels of homelessness. For instance, a common feature of the Great Depression in the United States was the establishment of shantytowns or ‘Hoovervilles’. These shantytowns were often built on the edges of major cities, and were named after United States President Herbert Hoover. He was the President during the start and early years of the Great Depression in the United States and was blamed for many of the hardships by the working-class people. At the height of the Great Depression, there were thousands of Hoovervilles across the United States and hundreds of thousands of people made their homes in these shantytowns. As stated above, Hoovervilles were often built next to large cities, since they offered a close location to potential sources of work and soup kitchens. Because the people living in the Hoovervilles were so poor, they were forced to construct their homes in the shantytowns out of whatever materials they would easily find, including: scrap wood from old crates and other sources, cardboard, scraps of sheet metal, and any other materials they could get their hands on. As such, the homes in the shanty towns were horribly cold in the winter. Generally, each home had a small stove for heat and cooking. However, the shanty towns lacked basic modern conveniences, such as: running water, waste removal, central heating/cooling and clean living quarters. This meant that working-class families lived in cramped, cold and dirty conditions, which made everyday life difficult. As well, the poor conditions caused many people to migrate across the United States in search of work and better conditions elsewhere. However, the entire country was struggling with the recession and working-class people often struggled to find better conditions. As a result, there were also migrants camps positioned across the country at different points 132along main highway routes and near towns. Most of the people in these shanty towns or migrant camps relied on charity from church and government organizations. Hoovervilles existed until the end of the Great Depression when increased employment and government programs ended their necessity.
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