One of Dove, Inc.’s program areas provides services to the Homeless population of Macon County. A common myth exists about the homelessness issues occurring in our community. “We are such a generous community that people come here for our services.” “People come to Decatur and bring their problems with them.” Or some variation therein.
Our local Continuum of Care to End Homelessness has been working with clients and seeing some significant successes in helping individuals and families to obtain and maintain housing in recent years. Our known chronically homeless population is down to the single digits. Our veteran’s homelessness is at functional zero, meaning if we find them we can house them typically within a day. Of course, we still struggle alongside some challenging clients with addictions and criminal histories and similar barriers, but we are making headway every day. Yet, we still hear on a regular basis about people who “come to Decatur.”
To combat this common misperception, I would like to provide some data from our Continuum Management Information System (also known as HMIS). This system used by agencies and organizations across Macon County is used to document services provided. Among other information we collect, the zip code where a person last had a permanent address prior to becoming homeless is recorded. Of the 1354 individuals provided housing services for homeless or formerly homeless in the last year 1248 or 92.2% had homes in Decatur and became homeless here. Another 25 came from surrounding communities in Macon, DeWitt, and Shelby Counties. 1 family came from Arkansas, and 2 from Chicago. In our chronically homeless population we had some who had been homeless long enough that they could not recall their last address. Still, all told just 7% of the Homeless and formerly Homeless population seeking services could not trace their last known address to Decatur.
None of us like to think of this happening to our friends and our neighbors, so of course it is tempting to hold onto the myth of transient homelessness. However, our community needs understand that this is a homegrown problem, and it will take homegrown solutions to turn things around. This is our home, these are our people, this is our problem.
The next Homeless Advisory Council meeting will be September 13 at 1:30 pm at 788 East Clay. We will be discussing National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week plans and agency services updates. These bimonthly meetings are open to anyone interested in working on solutions and ending homelessness in Decatur and Macon County. To explore how you can grow with us towards the future, please reach out to our Volunteer & Community Relations Director, Barb Blakey. Dove, Inc. is only as strong as its member organizations, volunteers, and advocates. Thank you for working to make our home a community of neighbors with hope for anyone in need.