Poverty in the USA

Poverty in the USA

2019, Society  -   22 Comments
Ratings: 7.77/10 from 71 users.

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.

Directed by: Sébastien Gilles

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 months ago

The normal distribution is a fact of nature. This doc is about one end of that distribution.

5 months ago

Great documemtary

3 years ago

This is not happening because of Trump, this happened long before his presidency, and if you really want to go there, how about all the homeless people in tent cities across America during Obama's time, and what did he say. He said he was going to help the people and punish Wall st. What a disappointment he turned out to be. I don't want to hear all this crap about how everything's gone down hill since President Trump came into office.

Robert Wyman
3 years ago

It is not the White House but rather sate and city governments that collect tax that is spent on self-indulgent projects and stupidity. Citizens rely on credit to live a lifestyle they do not have cash for. 50% divorce rate, two income families and regulation at local levels keep people from becoming their own bosses. Homes too big for a family to actually clean in a week and businesses leaving the U.S., the "war on drugs" and war on everything else is war on poor. California is a good example of bad ideas. Ask why police are heavily armed and free to kick in doors and seize whatever they please. Most carry M-16s, full automatic weapons. What are they expecting?

3 years ago

A very interesting documentary. After watching it, you understand better what Bernie Sanders is fighting for.

3 years ago

Awful documentary void of facts not highlighting the real reasons for poverty. You want to win an Oscar? Dig just a little deeper and hire an investigative reporter. Disappointing narrative!

3 years ago

How fat most of those people are. Same with the average person on the street, poverty stricken or not. People say they should move to a lower rent area and there is some truth to that but when you don't have any money moving can be a tall order. I'll wager nobody watching the video realizes what is the root cause of this misfortune. Let me clue you in, it because we don't have sound money. Almost all the value has been squeezed out of the dollar (97%) and what we are left with is fiat that doesn't buy very much. Once you get down there is almost no way out. It just takes too many dollars to get back on the wagon.

Francesco Zambuto
3 years ago

People around the world actually believe the America is the richest place on earth where no on goes hungry, all have a place to stay, everyone has money in their pocket to spend and everyone gets free health care. This is because they never see the reality of things;

3 years ago

Honlessness in CA was a rarity until Reagan was elected in 1966. He dismanteled the mental health system which was the best in the world at the time. Immediately there were homeless on the streets. He gloated about how CA had a budget surplus despite tax cuts. Easy eliminate 2/3 of the mental health budget. The cost gets shifted to the cities and the rich get richer. LA county jail has more mentally ill than any other institution in the world.
He won the governorship railing about those ungrateful and unruly kids at Cal. Then immediately started charging tuition. It was free then and now it is $14,000 /yr. He called out the National Guard in 1968 because the homeless were building a refuge in Berkeley called "Peoples' Park" Tear gassed the whole town and killed one innocent bystander. Reaganomics spread across the nation like the plague cutting support for social services and giving tax breaks to corporations creating an epidemic of homelessness.
There have always been a few homeless called hobos but they disappeared after WWII. Why? and why did they reappear?

3 years ago

leftist drivel. People live how they choose to live. get out of the city änd rents are much less expensive. most vehicle dwellers are there willingly. there is rental assistance nationwide. California is a sh*thole, and the residents voted for exactly what they are getting. 0 sympathy. Horrid captioning, maybe you should have hired one of those homeless people to transcribe it properly.
I personally live quite well on 1259.euros/month(1400. usd). it can be done quite easily if you put your mind to it.

3 years ago

makes 'Jaywick' UK
seem like paradise
(a place Trump has said is the most impoverished town in England)

3 years ago

Very sad and disturbing. The most disturbing part for me what the woman across the street from the people who'd just been delivered a free tiny house. People with that attitude are the problem. Selfish, self-serving, heartless, and cold. There is a special place for you lady after you die.

3 years ago

...all in all a good documentary, but there is poverty (in the US and California) of much worse character than what is shown here...so bad it's probably very difficult to capture...
Anybody living in Los Angeles, San Franscisco or many other places would know that...
Politicians always want "more people" (higher populations), well...now they don't know how to handle what they've got...but it's obvious, that one of the reasons for mass misery is simply that the majority of the population is not willing to help those in need in a sustained and meaningful...(like for example in Europe and elsewhere)

Devil Travels
3 years ago

American poverty as seen through the lense of German culture.
Also, a view of American weakness that can be used by agents unfriendly towards American politics.

3 years ago

The narrative of the filmmakers and the backstories of the people they were following didn't really sync all that well, which leaves an obvious shortfall they try to comb-over in the narration. The segments of the people living in their cars and on the streets in California feels genuine and the reality portrayed in the film matches what I've heard about from other sources - people come by hard times due to health or sudden changes in their circumstances and end up homeless due to high rents. Something should be done to help these people get back on their feet.

However when the film moves onto Virginia, I can't see how these people are that hard done-by. The guy living in an apartment for 1300 euros a month is crazy expensive. You can get a decent sizes apartment in Tokyo for that money, yet he can't find anything else at all? Something doesn't add up. Either the filmmakers are lying or they are leaving critical information out. The lady before that who was being evicted from a massive house also, surely can find somewhere smaller if times are hard, and in enough time to avoid being evicted. The filmmakers were clearly pushing for her to get angry at the system yet she takes it in her stride, even thanking the sheriff who was evicting her at the end. The backstory was left on the cutting room floor.

Of course, the topic then moves on to Trump, with a mother with children on food stamps linked to Trump moves to cut food stamps, leaving out that the current plan would not target this family. It is fair enough to disagree with the changes and critique them, but emotionally manipulating the viewer by linking things that are not directly linked, white good persuasion, is dishonest journalism.

3 years ago

Sad reality. America has a failed family system. Thats the root cause of most of the homelessness.