By Dr. Chad Audi
By now, you have probably received your 2010 U.S. Census form in the mail. And as I wrote in an earlier blog, one of the big challenges this year is to count the nation’s homeless. The U.S. Census Bureau is holding a homeless count program called “Make the Homeless Count,” on March 29 through 31. Over the three nights, enumerators will count people living in shelters and temporary housing, those eating at soup kitchens and mobile food vans, and others who are staying at outdoor locations.
Cities across the country are holding events to coincide with the census effort and help boost the homeless count. For example, Los Angeles is collecting donated socks and food that will be given to the homeless on March 30. Indeed, it is important that no one is overlooked in this year’s census. Not only do the final numbers impact how much federal funding states receive and determine political representation for communities, but the count will also raise awareness about the prevalence of homelessness across the country. Some of those federal funds are allocated to homeless assistance programs. So it is imperative that an accurate count is taken and that we do all we can to make sure no one is left out.
Social service agencies such as ours, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), are being encouraged by the U.S. Census Bureau to inform and guide those individuals who look to us for information and assistance. It may mean explaining the importance of the Census to a homeless person who is reluctant to take part. Or it could mean providing information on areas where homeless people are known to sleep outside. Or assuring the homeless that the results are confidential.
It’s all a part of what we do — work to improve the lives and welfare of others. Making the homeless count will ultimately result in getting more people off the street.
By Dr. Chad Audi
This country has never seen anything like it before. The rate of home foreclosures in the nation has skyrocketed to record highs. This increase in foreclosures is resulting in more homeless families. Some of the displaced move in with relatives or friends and some take up residence in hotels, motels and other transitional housing. Others end up in emergency shelters or on the streets.
Ironically, some homeless individuals turn to foreclosed houses for shelter. In some cities, the number of vacant houses outnumbers the people living on the streets. Often, the foreclosed homes are in much better condition than dilapidated, abandoned houses and in some cases, the water, electricity and gas are still working. A 2009 report authored by a coalition of agencies that work with homeless populations outlines the impact of the foreclosure crisis in communities across the country by utilizing homeless survey data. Click here to read the entire report titled, “Foreclosures to Homelessness 2009: The Forgotten Victims of the Subprime Crisis.”
On the flip side, the foreclosure crisis has resulted in a multitude of lower-priced homes. However, banks have tightened their credit requirements, preventing many people from securing mortgage loans. The result: an increase in the number of people becoming homeless.
Federal, state and local governments are attempting to combat the problem by providing funding to slow the foreclosure tide. The money is allocated in a variety of ways — to assist struggling families, create foreclosure counseling programs, prevent evictions, develop affordable housing, and more. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations that provide shelter and food for the homeless like ours, the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), are operating at overflow levels. We’re seeing people who were renting from homeowners who went into foreclosure, leaving the tenants without a place to live. We’re seeing low-income families who can’t afford to pay rising utility bills or maintain their homes. And we’re seeing people who are being turned away from relatives’ homes because of reduced household budgets and increased family responsibilities.
Our policy at DRMM is that we don’t turn anyone away. We make sure everyone who needs it gets a good night’s sleep, a nutritious meal, a soothing shower and decent clothing. We offer encouragement and prayer. Everyone deserves dignity and respect and a chance to live the American Dream.
By Dr. Chad Audi
When people think of homelessness, they often tend to equate it to large, urban cities with a diverse population. However, that’s not always the case. The Associated Press (AP) recently reported on the steady increase of homelessness among suburbanites and rural residents. Shelters are packed with people affected by foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing. The weak economy and high unemployment rates are impacting families everywhere, especially those who had never before sought government help.
I’ve written about this new face of homelessness often, because it is a phenomenon in this country that most likely will not dissipate any time soon. At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we are assisting people — and families —we have never seen before. Some are the “working homeless,” who come to us for meals and a warm place to sleep because they can’t afford food and utility payments. It is really a heartbreaking and unfortunate situation. But DRMM helps as much as possible by providing human services to the people who are feeling the pinch of the bad economy.
The AP article cited the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) annual survey that found homelessness rose from 23 percent to 32 percent among rural or suburban residents last year. Hardest hit were families, women, children, Latinos and men seeking help for the first time due to a loss of wages or jobs.
However, the bottom line is it doesn’t matter whether you are a city resident, suburbanite or rural dweller. These are tough times that we are living in, and anyone can find themselves in need of a helping hand.