We all know that homelessness is a gigantic problem in our world. There actually is a Federal Definition of Homelessness:
…An individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations; an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
According to information available from the government, every night in the United States, about 750,000 people experience homelessness. In a year between 2.5 and 3.5 million people experience homelessness for some period of time. Families with children make up about half of the homeless population. Nationally there are about 150,000 chronically homeless people.
I have been homeless, as have many people who survived Katrina’s destruction. I have had to call friends and ask if my family could stay in their home. This is ultimate humiliation for an American who has always had a roof over his head. It is humbling for one who is to be the head of his household and family. It is also a testimony to the need and joy of friendship and brotherhood that my family never spent one night outdoors or without relief.
In a January newspaper article, “Homelessness Mounting Among Kids, Families“, Catherine Komp had some interesting remarks.
“Described as America’s “dirty little secret” by social-service providers, an estimated one million young people experience homelessness each year. Many are unaccompanied teenagers, sleeping in parks, abandoned buildings or “couch surfing” at friends’ houses. Others are younger children, often in the care of a single parent, who double-up in relatives’ homes or in crowded shelters. The even-less fortunate live in cars, tents and under freeway overpasses. …. Once on the street, young people … face challenges beyond finding enough to eat and a place to sleep. … they contend with police, thieves and sexual predators… Some turn to “survival sex” to pay for food or a room for the night. …homeless youth who say they have been targeted by people working in illegal pornography.
The causes of homelessness and severe poverty are fairly evident. There is a lack of affordable housing. This is especially true on the Gulf Coast where much of the “affordable housing” was destroyed and is now being replaced by high-dollar rentals. Incomes that are too low for basic living expenses. Domestic violence sends injured spouses into the streets. Divorce can leave one or both financially devastated … especially if the wife is left with the kids and an ex-husband who cannot or will not send child support. Sickness and a lack of health insurance can place one in a precarious situation. One hospital stay can accumulate thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. Child abuse by a family member can send children to the streets. Delinquency and falling in with the wrong crowd can result in a life on the streets. Mental illness is certainly a significant factor – especially among the chronically homeless. Drugs and alcohol abuse is also a major factor among the homeless and impoverished.
What do we do about it? Our typical reactions range from just ignoring the problem and disdaining the people to short-term compassion projects or just shrugging our shoulders. There are no easy answers. There are no comfortable solutions. There are no quick fixes.
More on this subject tomorrow.
We had a great night of worship and testimony last night. I have some pictures up on the picture page. Lots of tears were shed as the leaders of the groups and some of the volunteers shared their thoughts about the mission work here. I did do an audio recording. I haven’t listened to it yet to see how it came out … but if I post it on the podcast I’ll let you know!
FORGIVEN – take a moment to watch this.
Thanks for reading!