I read with interest the recent news that the number of homeless Americans has steadily dropped since 2005. According to a study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless people has quietly fallen by 17-percent. The drop comes despite the nation’s recession and a slow recovery in the job market.
Although on the surface this is encouraging news, the fact remains that the total number of homeless Americans stood at an estimated 634,000 individuals last year. I’m sure no one would argue that number is still staggering. However, it does represent a drop of nearly 130,000 people over seven years.
Another amazing statistic comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The agency reports that since 2009 there has been a 17-percent reduction in the number of homeless military veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says it is on track to meet its daunting goal of ending homelessness for veterans by 2015.
So what do these statistics tell us? It tells us that our poorest citizens are slowly getting a foothold in the economy. Some of the decline can be attributed to President Barack Obama’s stimulus programs that poured more federal money into housing, medical and mental services, and preventative measures.
Of course, we all hope this decrease in American homelessness continues. However, sequestration is already threatening to reverse the downward trend. Federal spending reductions impact organizations like ours, Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), and the homeless individuals we serve.
DRMM continues to see a steady stream of individuals who are in need of shelter, food, clothing and job readiness. Some are homeless because of economic circumstances. Others have substance abuse and mental health issues that keep them chronically homeless. We believe the only way to put an end to homelessness is to treat individuals holistically. We treat their minds, bodies and souls. It’s not enough to just give the homeless a handout. We are rebuilding lives by providing life’s necessities and training our clients to become self-sufficient and productive citizens.