The new homeless in my hometown

My hometown of Oroville, California is not a wealthy town. This is ironic given that it was the wealthiest town in Butte County in the 19th century and was thus granted the county seat. While a wise choice at the time, it has since led to a large amount of people living in the area on government assistance as by living in the town, they are close to the administrative offices of said assistance and overall, the cost of living is less than the majority of California.
The old town from the Gold Rush period in the mid 1800’s is charming and the town overall could easily be a delightful place someday with sufficient planning. This of course has not arrived as not one, but two American Indian casinos opened in town several years ago. While there are the occasional big winners here and there who have their picture taken with the new 4×4 truck they bought with the money and then shown in the local paper, the casinos have been a drain on the town. Those who drive to them to try and win their rent money with their food money are often seen walking back in to the downtown area.
While this is bad, it’s not as bad the current economy. No one really believes me, but I keep telling them that I was never confronted with homeless people until I moved to San Francisco. Sure, there were some around, but they would literally hide out in the woods at various camps. Sometimes they lived under bridges or in other odd and slightly mythological places. In a word, they were out of sight.
In see the town for the first time since last May, I’m quite terrified at what has happened. I see homeless everywhere. Some of them look spun out or drunk, but many just look like normal folks, down on the luck, beat up by their monetary state, and out on the streets. This is sobering. I’ve never seen this before in the three plus decades Oroville and I have had a relationship.
About the only think I can point a finger at is the economy. It’s a lot deeper and worse than anyone wants to admit. I’ve seen three economic downturns in San Francisco and it generally looks unchanged, but seeing a change like this in my home town is a glaring sign that while maybe we’ve hit bottom, we still have yet to admit it and until we do that, we’re just doing to see the sides of a very deep hole for awhile.