Homelessness on the rise

There are increasing numbers of newly homeless people appearing at agencies and churches asking for assistance according to a number of social service agencies around the country. What makes this particularly tragic is that this is happening just as funding to provide for the needs of the homeless is running out or being cut.

MSNBC’s website reports:

“A downturn in (overall) funding in this case is accompanied by a surge in demand, so a homeless shelter, food pantry, or job-training program is going to feel it first,” says Chuck Bean, executive director of Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, in the District of Columbia. “Even if they have 100 percent of their budget compared to last year, they now see a 50 percent surge in demand. Then (they) get into the tough decisions: Do you thin the soup, or shorten the line?”

Even as census-takers fan out in cities across the country this week in an attempt to count homeless populations, advocates and experts point to a bevy of evidence that homelessness is rising and will continue to, most notably among families with children.

Shelters across the country report that more people are seeking emergency shelter and more are being turned away. In a report published in December, 330 school districts identified the same number or more homeless students in the first few months of the school year than they identified in the entire previous year. Meantime, demand is sharply up at soup kitchens, an indication of deepening hardship and potential homelessness.

Churches and volunteer organizations are attempting to pick up the slack, but their budgets are being increasingly strained as well as donations begin to dry up in the regions where assistance is most desperately needed.

One simple thing that is being done in response this weekend is the participation of Episcopal congregations in a census count of the local homeless populations that is mentioned above.

Other congregations are ramping up their existing programs to attempt to respond to the increased needs.

Even more responses are found here, here and here.

What sorts of things are congregations doing in your area?

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