The depression caused serious public health problems. Hospitals across the country were filled with sick people whose main illness was a lack of food. The health department in New York City found that one of every five of the city's children did not get enough food.
Ninety-nine percent of the children attending a school in a coal-mining area of the country reportedly were underweight. In some places, people died of hunger.
The quality of housing also fell. Families were forced to crowd into small houses or apartments to share costs. Many people had no homes at all. They slept on public streets, buses or trains.
One official in Chicago reported in nineteen thirty-one that several hundred women without homes were sleeping in city parks.
In a number of cities, people without homes built their houses from whatever materials they could find. They used empty boxes or pieces of metal to build shelters in open areas.
People called these areas of little temporary houses "Hoovervilles." They blamed President Hoover for their situation. So, too, did the men forced to sleep in public parks at night. They covered themselves with pieces of paper. And they called the paper "Hoover blankets." People without money in their pants called their empty pockets "Hoover flags."
People blamed President Hoover because they thought he was not doing enough to help them. Hoover did take several actions to try to improve the economy. But he resisted proposals for the federal government to provide aid in a major way. And he refused to let the government spend more money than it earned.