America’s Homeless Middle Class

How Poor People Survive in the USA

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary is about homeless members of middle class America whose wages are too low to cover rent. Filmmakers visit San Diego, Los Angeles, Richmond Virginia, Appalachia and Waco Texas.

In San Diego they film a parking lot in which thirty people working as Uber drivers, security guards, secretaries, cleaners, carers and computer technicians sleep in their cars overnight. A charity provides them with portapotties, a water point, and an open air kitchen facility. One of the carers who sleeps there works nine hour days seven days a week.

In Los Angeles, which filmmakers refer to as the homeless capitol of the US (with 59,000 homeless), the documentary profiles a full time volunteer who builds wooden tiny houses (which have been legally banned by the city council) for people currently living tents.

In Richmond, filmmakers follow local sheriffs carrying out an eviction at gunpoint. They also visit one of the budget motels that have sprung up in the Richmond outskirts due to the city’s high number of evictions.*

In Appalachia, they visit one of the poorest counties in the nation, where volunteers run a daily food truck to distribute food to the area’s children. They also profile a military-style field hospital that provides once-a-year medical and dental treatment for the uninsured. The field hospital, held on a local sports field, is funded by a national charity and staffed by volunteer health providers.

In Waco, the filmmakers visit a church program that recruits candidates from all over the US to pay 60 dollars to experience sleeping rough first hand.


*In Virginia, a landlord can legally evict a tenant once their rent is five days past due.

 

The Luxury of Dental Health in Third World America

Dental Health

Press TV (2017)

This documentary highlights the millions of Americans unable to access dental care owing to the prohibitive cost. With a routine dental checkups costing a week’s salary on average, healthy teeth have become an unaffordable luxury in the US.

The US is the only developed country that refusesĀ  to provide basic health care for all its residents. Prior to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) in 2010, poor Americans unable to access medical services experienced an average of 45,000 preventable deaths annually.

Total preventable deaths dropped initially (to 18,000) with the enactment of Obamacare. Since then skyrocketing premiums – coupled with Trump’s repeal of premium subsidies – have caused a rebound in the number of uninsured Americans.

California used to provide free dental services for indigent residents under the state Medicaid program. However this was discontinued in 2009. Although indigent children are still theoretically eligible to receive DentiCal services, reimbursement rates are so low only a handful of Los Angeles dentists participate in the program.

The film focuses on nongovernmental efforts to improve dental health in the Los Angeles Hispanic community. Ironically dental health deteriorates in Mexicans after they immigrate to the US – and move from rural areas to inner cities lacking access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Thus an essential component of the University of Southern California (USC) dental health outreach program involves a campaign to increase urban gardens and nutrition education in schools.

The USC Ostrow School of Dentistry also recruits volunteer dentists to run free dental clinics for children, the unemployed, the uninsured and the elderly (of all ethnicities).

In addition to to the USC program, the Los Angeles Hispanic Dental Association has established a fund to support Spanish-speaking students in pursuing dental degrees and foreign-trained Hispanic dentists in jumping the bureaucratic hurdles of obtaining a US work permit .