For far too many, the American Dream will forever remain unattainable and unfulfilled. Plagued by skyrocketing costs and stagnant wages, it's more common than ever for average middle-income Americans to tumble into a life of poverty and despair. The DW Documentary series explores this troubling phenomenon in Poverty in the USA, a searing profile of the rising homeless epidemic.
In spite of a strong economy and dwindling unemployment, the scourge of homelessness continues to ravage cities across the country. Many of the affected are confronted by challenges common to us all: failed relationships, job insecurity, unexpected expenses and medical issues among them. But the toll of these hurdles is just too daunting, and the cost of living is too prohibitive.
The filmmakers travel from southern California to rural American in search of those caught in the crossfire of the American Dream. The personalities that are profiled in the film stand in contrast to the small-minded perception of the homeless as lazy or disturbed individuals. They hold regular jobs that run the gamut from janitorial assistants to computer engineers. At one point, they enjoyed comfortable and stable lives. But it's become more and more difficult to keep their heads above water.
Many of them sleep in their cars, and rely on the comfort of strangers and philanthropic organizations to provide them with a safe parking lot, fresh water and restroom facilities. We witness one such organization as they operate an encampment for free medical care; it resembles a field hospital on a battlefield. Other volunteers do their part by constructing tiny and efficient housing. Another profiled organization teaches life and job skills to the homeless population. On the streets, where hopes for a brighter future often feel like an impossibility, these groups are providing an invaluable service.
Poverty in the USA is a distressing portrait - especially in moments where we witness the daily existence of people living in their cars or follow law enforcement officials as they evict tenants from their homes. But it's also a stirring portrait of those who are working to make a difference in the lives of those affected by this epidemic.