Bay Area Resource Center and Community Campus
Persons without shelter who are vulnerable and struggling to survive belong to this community. Just like you and me, they live here and they are part of our daily environment. How we choose to handle them demonstrates much about who we are and how well we understand the homelessness dilemma. The CRC Task Force recommends that we no longer support a system that not only allows, but enables the homeless to remain in their homeless state. Instead, let’s move forward as a community, acknowledge the need and pursue the best solution available.
Statistics: The Need
●3 million or more people become homeless nationally during the course of each year. This has been true for the past decade.
●There are 16 million children living in poverty in the United States.
●There are almost 1500 homeless children right now in Bay County alone, by federal definition. This number has risen by nearly 200 since this past school year.
●59% of all the school children in Bay District Schools are participating in the Free Lunch program.
●Only 10% of the total number of homeless persons are the chronic homeless, or those who choose to be homeless as a lifestyle.
●90% of homeless persons are homeless due to unemployment, significant underemployment—income that does not cover their basic needs, and disabilities (from lack of physical health care, mental health issues, and addictions).
●In a recent Alachua County Florida study, 31.7 % of homeless persons had lived in Alachua County for more than ten years and 21.6 % were born and grew up in Alachua County.
●Nationwide, depending on the geographic area, one in every four or five homeless men are veterans.
●In Northwest Florida, almost forty per cent, or more than one in three homeless persons are veterans. With the number of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, it may soon be closer to one of every two.
●One-fourth of the nation’s homeless persons reside in the state of Florida.
●Statewide 2/3 of homeless families in Florida live in the street.
●Currently the longevity of homelessness continues to rise. Persons who become homeless are homeless longer because their friends, neighbors and family are also suffering the consequences of the poor economy and can do little as individuals to provide real assistance.
Conclusion: The Best Solution
While the economy and homelessness are national problems, we must find local solutions. In the same way we struggle but persevere with economic development activities, we must pursue solutions to homelessness. The only thing that will ever really address the homelessness issue is a local initiative.
We also must change our perspective and recognize that managing the symptoms of poverty will not effectuate the results for which we are looking. In much the same way we realize that treating the symptoms of disease does not cure it, we have come to understand that we must address the root causes of poverty and homelessness if we are to have any systemic and permanent effect.
The causes of homelessness are complex, but the reoccurring themes that emerge are poverty, lack of affordable housing and need for services. Our service delivery system is fragmented and persons have difficulty accessing mainstream resources.
The Bay Area Resource Center and Community Campus with collaborating partners housed on-site will address the concerns outlined above.
Written by Jo Shaffer, Project Manager for Bay Area Resource Center and Community Campus, Inc.