Homelessness in America

Posted: February 24, 2010 in homelessness
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Homelessness in America is straining shelters this winter as the economy flounders and joblessness hovers near 10 percent. All of this is the result of foreclosures, unemployment and a shortage of affordable housing.

Area shelters are seeing many families that never before sought government help. There has been a spiral in applications for food stamps and heating assistance applications; Medicaid is skyrocketing. The homelessness problem is truly reaching a stage of being alarming.

The federal government is again counting the nation’s homeless and, by many accounts, the suburban numbers continue to rise. Especially for families, women, children, and men seeking help for the first time. Some have to be turned away.

Growing at a rate of 10 percent per year, Omaha’s homeless population may soon be more than it can handle. Some of the shelters in Omaha have seen the need for emergency shelter rise as much as 30 percent this winter. The Siena/Francis House   had an all-time record high number of 485 people spend the night. In spite of the increases Mike Sakler, Executive Director, does all he can so that he will never have to turn anyone away. And sometimes that means adapting to the situation and becoming more creative. As the Siena/Francis House has a total of only 341 beds in their facilities, the 144 persons who did not have a bed that night slept on a mattress on the floor, or in a chair.

Mike Sakler told WOWT recently that he’s seen many new faces here. “Many of these new people have never been homeless before. The combination of the poor economy – coupled with several major snow storms and extremely cold weather – has created the most overcrowded conditions that our shelter has ever experienced.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s annual survey last year found homelessness remained steady at about 1.6 million people, but the percentage of rural or suburban homelessness rose from 23 percent to 32 percent. The 2009 HUD report, which reflected the 12 months ending Sept. 30, 2008, also found the number of sheltered homeless families grew from about 473,000 to 517,000.

As stunning as those numbers might seem,  to give you an even better grasp on the numbers, there were approximately 1.5 million people who attended the 2009 inauguration. This is approximately the same number of homeless people who are living on American streets.

So picture that all the people who attended Barack Obama’s inauguration were homeless:

The worst aspect of homelessness in this country is the apathy of the people who are more than able to help. We tend to be a nation that would much rather ignore the problem; hoping it will just go away. But the homeless problem will not just go away. In fact, unless something is done soon it could take years to remedy the problem.

For more information on what you can do to end homelessness in our lifetime visit:

http://www.endhomelessness.org

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