The effect of the Great Depression on the American people was staggering. Although President Herbert Hoover made several attempts to bring relief to the economy and the American people, his efforts were too little, too late.
During the depression many factories and banks closed, farms fell into bankruptcy, and people lost their homes. Many were dependent on soup kitchens and other charitable facilities for a daily meal; men often abandoned their families and hopped freight trains hoping to find work elsewhere. Thousands were homeless, and wrapped themselves in "Hoover Blankets," or newspapers, in an attempt to keep warm. The suicide rate grew tremendously as many people completely lost hope.
President Hoover at first believed a "slight correction" was the only thing needed to end the Depression, but soon discovered otherwise. He made speeches in which he begged shops and factories to stay open and for people not to lose hope; but this was an impossible task for them. He also worked with Congress to produce several acts designed to end the downturn:
- The Federal Home Loan Bank Act created savings and loans to finance home purchases.
- The Reconstruction Finance Corporation provided emergency funds to banks, insurance companies, and railroads.
- The Emergency Relief and Construction Act provided money for states to begin public works.
None of these efforts met with much success, and Hoover himself soon hardened his position, insisting that "volunteerism" was the answer to the country's economic woes. He said local communities should begin relief programs
with that sturdiness and independence which built a great Nation.