By Dr. Chad Audi
Recently, I wrote about the U.S. government’s new comprehensive plan to end homelessness among veterans, children, youth and families. Now comes word from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that the number of families staying in homeless shelters increased by nearly 40,000 from 2007 to 2009. The total number of homeless families — identified in the report as at least one adult and one minor child — stood at about 170,000 last year. And unfortunately, it looks like the numbers will continue to grow this year.
A sinking economy resulting in long-term unemployment and foreclosures is primarily to blame. At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have seen a 30 percent increase in requests for our services this year. We’ve provided emergency shelter to nearly 3,200 individuals over the past year, treated more than 900 men and women for substance abuse, and placed almost 680 homeless people in transitional housing. In all, DRMM impacted the lives of 5,508 people through our programs this year. And the year’s not over yet.
It’s particularly heartbreaking to see children affected by homelessness. They are innocent and have no say in their families’ financial situation. DRMM provides housing for teen mothers and their children, as well as substance abuse treatment for women with children. We have preventative activities for kids, including a summer camp, aimed at keeping them from going down a path that could lead to homelessness in the future.
Last year, the federal government made $1.5 billion available to states through the Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program. The funds are being used to help keep families in their homes or to get them back in one quickly if they lose their house. The Obama administration’s new homeless strategy, “Opening Doors,” outlines collaborations between federal, state and local agencies to end homelessness among families by 2020. We’ll all need to work together to make this a reality.