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Thursday, November 19, 2015

Understanding Homelessness


Understanding homelessness means to know what some of the issues are pertaining to the social issues causing homelessness: poverty, affordable housing, disabilities, and others. Homelessness occurs when people or households can no longer afford to maintain housing. While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. Typically, families become homeless as a result of some unforeseen financial crisis - a medical emergency, a car accident, a death in the family - that prevents them from being able to hold on to housing. Young people often become homeless due to family conflict, including divorce, neglect, or abuse. (National Alliance to End Homelessness, 2015) A lot of young people who become homeless, they either return home or move in with friends or family. Veterans often become homeless due to war-related disabilities. For many different reasons, whether it is physical disabilities, post-traumatic stress or mental illnesses, etc. a lot of veterans find returning back to civilian life to be difficult after experiencing some of the things they have seen. In return some are experiencing substance abuse problems, violence, abuse and risky behavior. Chronic homelessness is often the face we see first as homelessness. A recent study shows that nowhere in the United States can someone who works 40 hours a week at minimum wage afford a one bedroom apartment at fair market rent. Homelessness maybe decreasing, however we as communities along with our federal government need to prioritize affordable housing to eradicate the problem of homelessness. 

Kimberly Fickes
Employment and Life Skills Specialist
Homeward Bound






Friday, November 13, 2015

Causes of Family Homelessness

Kendra Warnsely, Permanent Housing Case Manager at Homeward Bound share some fact on family homelessness during this National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week.


There are a number of factors that contribute to family homelessness, including the challenge of raising children alone, fractured social supports, and the changing demographics of the family. More significant to the dilemma of family homelessness are:
 

  • Lack of affordable housing –According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the United States is facing increasing rents, stagnating wages, and an extreme shortage of affordable housing. For every 100 extremely low-income renters, there are just 31 affordable units.
  • Extreme poverty – In 2009, 17% of all American families with two parents and 34% of all single-parent families lived below the poverty line. Many families do not earn adequate wages, with one-fifth of all US jobs not paying enough to keep a family of four out of poverty. Families need an income twice as high as the Federal Poverty Level, on average, to meet their most basic needs.
  • Decreasing government supports – In 1996 the federal welfare reform law replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program with a block grant program called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). However, these grants, combined with the Food Supplement Program, formally known as Food Stamps, require applicants to earn below poverty level in almost every state and while the number of poor people has increased in recent years, the number of people receiving TANF has decreased.
  • Domestic violence – Because of their unique and often urgent circumstances, those coming from domestic violence situations are more likely to become homeless or have a problem finding housing. Families escaping domestic violence may have poor credit, rental, and/or employment histories. Additionally, some are unable to collect and/or enforce child support and alimony payments, because they must avoid their abuser for safety.


As the problem of family homelessness accelerates, the services to accommodate the increasing numbers are lagging behind. Homelessness disrupts virtually every aspect of family life, damaging the physical and emotional health of family members, interfering with children’s education and development, and frequently resulting in the separation of family members, with a much higher rate of separation for families that have experienced homelessness than others that have not.

http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/families/

Friday, November 6, 2015

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is recognized throughout the country each year during the week right before Thanksgiving. During this week many groups and organizations hold events to assist in bringing about awareness to this very real issue within many communities across the country. These events often include organized food drives, collecting warm clothing, volunteering in shelters and food distribution centers and other efforts to assist in alleviating the stress of being without adequate food and shelter. The Macon County Continuum of Care (CoC) is hosting several events, which include "Box City", showing of the documentary "Homestretch", Veterans Stand Down, an art exhibit and much more that you can find on the Dove, Inc. website. This week helps shed a heavy light on the ugliness of these issues. Unfortunately when the week has ended and we are rushing around trying to prepare ourselves for the hustle and bustle of spending our Thanksgiving with family and turkeys, the reality is that too many are still without housing and food in this community. Families are still scrambling to find appropriate and safe shelter before the bitter cold sweeps in. The elderly are still faced with choosing between medication and dinner. Yes, this is awful but even more devastating than the THOUGHT of someone being in such situations is BEING that someone in such situations. Often times, we think there has to be someone else who is going to step up to the plate to do the heavy lifting in the lean times. And, I must say in Macon County we are blessed to have great collaboration amongst community leaders, advocates and volunteers. However, we have cracks to fill.



I have heard more times than I care to acknowledge, the term "these/those people". I believe it is that disconnect that allows us to "give" and then forget until the next big "giving" event. People are facing these issues year round, not just during the coldest months of the year or during the week before Thanksgiving. Families are struggling to make a decent living to support their households year round and frequently it is not due to their lack of effort. Outside influences such as layoffs, fires, unforeseen health issues and the like can kick off a battle with hunger and homelessness that those of us who haven’t faced such situations, could never truly conceive. And if we don’t personal know "these/those people" then we may not see the struggle or we do see it and misinterpret it. These misinterpretation are by no means malicious but nevertheless they are there and they cause us to stand inactive when we are not directly called to act. "These/Those people" are not our brothers, daughters, parents or neighbors thereby making it easier to walk by without a second glance.



Today, I challenge you to think about the most difficult situation that you have ever had to face in your lifetime; stress on the job, financial instability, health issues or any such thing. Now, imagine going home at the end of the day, taking your shoes off, climbing into a hot bath/shower, eating your favorite dinner and watching your favorite reality show as you drift off, completely leaving the stress behind and waking refreshed ready to take on the problem in the new daylight. Let’s turn the tables, now imagine instead that you have to curl up in the back seat of your car or in a tent behind an abandoned building and you are awakened every few minutes by strange noises that you can’t ignore because to do so puts your safety in jeopardy. Imagine finally crawling out of your makeshift shelter at the crack of dawn and going to the corner gas station to freshen up before going out and facing a day of the same stressors from which you were not able to temporarily escape during the night. Imagine living this life for weeks or months or years. Imagine your son or father or sister living this life. I challenge you to imagine your child asking you what’s for dinner tonight and you not being able to answer because there is nothing for dinner tonight. I challenge you to imagine trying to hold back tears and choking down that lump in your throat when your grandchild is relying on you to provide his basic needs and because they cut your hours at work you can’t even keep him warm at night. I challenge you to contact me and find out how you can assist the Macon County Continuum of Care in filling these cracks and ending hunger and homelessness in our community.



Darsonya Switzer

Homeward Bound Program Director