The Impact of the Towers’ Fall on the Rise of Homelessness

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With clarity rooted in trauma, Marion Legare remembers a precise detail: The clock in the Port Authority’s cafeteria where he worked read 8:50 a.m. and was fast when the plane hit the north tower of the World Trade Center.

It took 45 minutes for Legare, 39, to make his way with a long line of people through smoke and water and the searing smell of jet fuel down the stairs 43 floors to the street.

Little did he know when he finally emerged from the tower into sunlight that the staircase would lead to a homeless shelter.

Roger Morgan worked for a messenger service when the twin towers collapsed. Fully half of the firm’s clients were either in the trade center or were businesses in other parts of the city that relied on companies in the complex.

Two weeks after the attack, Morgan, 41, was fired from his $6.50-an-hour courier’s job, and, like Legare, the downward spiral began.

Legare and Morgan belong to a largely hidden and uncounted legacy of the World Trade Center disaster: the legion of people who lived from paycheck to paycheck with little or no savings and who have now lost their jobs.

“Prior to Sept. 11, things were already bad for hundreds of thousands of low-income New Yorkers who were barely surviving from minimum-wage paycheck to minimum-wage paycheck,” said Joel Berg, executive director of the Coalition Against Hunger.

“The economic fallout from Sept. 11 has made things unimaginably worse for such families,” Berg added. “The city’s more than 1,000 pantries and kitchens are swelling with secondary victims of the attack: dishwashers, waitresses, bike messengers, hotel maids, airport porters and store clerks who lost their jobs.”

(Excerpts from Los Angeles Times, December 26, 2001)

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