Recently, I blogged about the current economic environment and how it has led to a decrease in donations to non-profits, while the demand for services offered by non-profits is steadily increasing. This trend was echoed in a recent national report by MSNBC.com. The story titled, “Homelessness surges as funding falters,” documented how reduced funding for service providers is being accompanied by a surge in demand. The situation is having a huge impact on homeless shelters, non-profits and churches. Reports from around the country indicate more people are seeking emergency shelter and more are being turned away.
So what options are left for providers like the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM)? Should we reduce the amount of food served to the hungry? Must we turn away people standing in line for hours to get a warm place to sleep? Should we stop providing medical and dental care for people who desperately need it? None of these is a good option in my mind.
When a shelter is forced to close because of inadequate funding and donations, what happens to the man or woman who is entering his or her ninth month of sobriety but suddenly is put back on the streets, usually to relapse? What happens to the woman and her children who have nowhere to sleep, eat or shower? It’s a huge setback in efforts to rebuild lives.
MSNBC reported that experts believe homelessness will continue to rise, most notably among families with children. Already, the number of homeless students identified in school districts across the country in the first few months of the 2008-09 school year are the same number or more than in the entire previous year.
What can we do? There’s a bill awaiting approval on Capitol Hill that may increase funding for emergency shelters. I’ll write more about that soon.