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  • Writer's pictureJim Strawn

Homelessness Is a National Crisis

From: US News

By: Therese Gallagher

Homelessness is not just a problem in West Virginia or the Kanawha Valley. We at Roark-Sullivan are dedicated to putting an end to homelessness in our area.

The following article from US News & World Report, illustrates the challenges that lay before us. This is a United States issue, not just in WV.

Washington state Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima) recently proposed not allowing homeless shelters, or even organizations that serve the homeless, to be located within 1,000 feet of a school. The reason apparently is to keep children from being exposed to alcohol or marijuana use (dispensaries and liquor stores are also beholden to the 1,000-feet rule).

In San Francisco and Denver, homeless advocates are facing off with city officials who destroyed tent cities, demanding that the city offer more social services for the homeless. In San Francisco, sweeps during inclement weather prevented people from sleeping in public areas even though the homeless shelters were full and the homeless had nowhere else to go.

Some observers see the homeless as "less than" and a target for blame for violent crimes. Yet those who are homeless are much more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. The most visible homeless – those who panhandle on the streets – are only a small portion of the total homeless population.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, homelessness is defined as lacking housing, whether the person sleeps on the streets, in a shelter, or in the homes of friends and family members. An estimated 553,742individuals are homeless, per a January 2017 point-in-time count.

The reasons people become homeless vary; addiction and mental health disorders are often cited, but they are not the most common reasons. The institutional practices at work – lack of a livable wage, affordable housing and medical debt – are major reasons one becomes homeless.

As a nurse who helps to run an interprofessional, student-led clinic in a Chicago homeless shelter, I am struck by how quickly some of my patients report their lives changed.

One patient suffered a traumatic injury that prevented him from working. Without a paycheck, he quickly lost his apartment and car and turned to the shelter. Another woman left an abusive relationship and did not have anywhere to go; her family does not live in the area. Many patients have laborer jobs where they work all day and return to the shelter at night. Unfortunately their pay is so low, they cannot afford an apartment.

One-third of the homeless are families with children. Veterans from all wars since World War II comprise 11 percent of the homeless. According to financial aid applications, 68,000 college students identify as homeless.

In an age where the value of human life is discussed on a national stage, policymakers and pundits often do not consider the homeless an urgent part of the conversation.

Click here for the FULL article.

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