Friday, May 22, 2009

Wallis on the changing face of homelessness

Jim Wallis, leader of Sojourners community, published a helpful summary of the challenges facing the homeless in the United States in a Washington Times last Sunday. Wallis makes it clear that the "profile" of America's homeless is changing. Much of what he says is not new to us in Dallas, but his words are helpful in understanding a wide range of issues and possibile solutions. The latest "point-in-time" census among the homeless here in Dallas was conducted in January. According to the poll, our homeless population had declined from the same time last year, unlike other major cities.

Here's a taste of Wallis' commentary, entitled "Handling America's homeless families" (May 17, 2009):

The stereotypical image of homelessness is a disheveled man, clutching a bottle of cheap wine in a brown paper bag and shuffling along the sidewalk. But that is an old image now and fails to reflect the growing reality of homelessness.

The combined effects of increasing unemployment, poverty and the lack of affordable housing, now exacerbated by the severe economic crisis, have led to a dramatic increase of homeless families. Recent news reports have told of tent cities and shantytowns, with parents and their children living out of cars. And it is clearly a growing problem.

A December 2008 annual survey of 25 major cities by the U.S. Conference of Mayors profiles the new face of homelessness: "The report reveals that on average, cities reported a 12 percent increase in homelessness from 2007 to 2008, with 16 cities citing an increase in the number of homeless families."

Similarly, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions' latest annual survey at 137 rescue missions across North America in October 2008 reported that "women with children made up 66 percent of the homeless families counted in the survey, a jump from 55 percent in 2007 and the highest figure recorded in the last eight years."

What should we do? Ultimately, of course, reversing unemployment with jobs that allow a family to afford housing is the best answer to homelessness. But for the immediate crisis, cities around the country, partnering with faith-based and neighborhood groups, the federal government and the private sector, have been developing an array of programs that actually work. Let me suggest a three-step strategy. . .

Read the entire article here.

1 comment:

Lorlee said...

This is a link to a very revealing article in the Washington Post about how much more it costs to be poor -- gouged at every turn.