During the Great Depression thousands of unemployed residents who could not pay their rent or mortgages were evicted into the world of public assistance and bread lines. Unable to find work and seeing that each job they applied for had hundreds of seekers, these shabby, disillusioned men wandered aimlessly without funds, begging, picking over refuse in city dumps, and finally getting up the courage to stand and be seen publicly – in a bread line for free food. To accommodate them, charities, missions, and churches began programs to feed them. Men who experienced the waiting in line recall the personal shame of asking for a handout, unable to care for oneself or to provide for others. On the first picture, you can see the “Breadline” sculpture by George Segal in the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. The sorrowful faces of the life-size statues are a powerful expression of the times, showing the inactivity and troubles of everyday citizens during the Great Depression. On the 2nd picture, you can see a real bread line in NYC during the Great Depression.
The first photo shows a house made of salvaged boards and planks that poor Americans who lost everything during the Depression lived in. Many families lost all of their money in the stock market and were left homeless, so they moved into parks, under bridges and into the woods where they formed little communities. These towns became known as Hooverville’s, because many people blamed the President (Herbert Hoover) for the economic collapse. These communities began popping up all over the nation as more and more of its citizens fell upon desperate times. The second photo shows a bread line in a major city. In an attempt to provide some relief, the government provided food to the most needy of its citizens. Bread, stew, soup and water were the most common commodities handed out to starving men women and children. It was not uncommon to see thousands of people waiting on one of these lines hoping to get a few scraps of food to get them through the day, because they did not know when their next meal might be.