Archive for October 2008

Who Are The Homeless?

October 30, 2008

After defining what it means to be “homeless”, the National Coalition for the Homeless (Fact Sheet #3, June 2008) states that:

Two trends are largely responsible for the rise of homelessness over the past 20-25 years: a growing shortage of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty. Persons living in poverty are most at risk of becoming homeless, and demographic groups who are more likely to experience poverty are also more likely to experience homelessness.”

The Fact Sheet reveals the following statistics about those among us who are more likely to experience homelessness:

Age – In 2003, children under the age of 18 accounted for 39% of the homeless population; 42% were under the age of 5. Unaccompanied minors comprised 5% of the urban homeless population. In 2004, 25% of homeless people were ages 25-34 and 6% were aged 55 to 64.

Gender – Males are more likely to be homeless than females.

Families – The number of homeless families with children has increased significantly over the past decade, making them one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless in America. A 2007 U.S. Conference of Mayors survey of 23 United States cities found that families with children comprised 23% of the homeless population. The average stay in a familiy shelter for a homeless family is 5.7 months.

Ethnicity – A 2006 survey of 23 U.S. cities found that the homless population is estimated to be 42% African-American, 39% White, 13% Hispanic, 4% Native American, and 2% Asian. The ethnic makeup of the homeless varies according to geographic region.

Victims of Domestic Violence – Nationally, 50% of all women and children experiencing homelessness are fleeing domestic violence. An estimated 39% of requests for shelter by homeless families were denied in 2006 due to lack of available resources.

Veterans – 40% of homeless men have served in the Armed Services. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night in the U.S. there are 271,000 homeless veterans.

Persons with Mental Illness – Approximately 16% of the single adult homeless population suffers from some form of severe and persistent mental illness. Only 5%-7% of the mentally ill homeless require institutionalization; most can live in the community with appropriate supportive housing options.

Persons with Addictions – In 2005, the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated that 30% of homeless adults suffered from addiction disorders.

Employment – The Mayor’s 2005 survey of 23 American cities found that 13% of the urban homeless were employed while more recent surveys reported the figures to be as high as 25%.

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As these figures from the National Coalition for the Homeless show, people who become homeless do not fit into one general description. But, those who do experience homelessness do share certain common needs – adequate housing and shelter, nutrition, adequate employment and income, health care, and care for their children.

Is it realistic for us to think that we can actually bring an end to the poverty, homelessness, and hurt described in the figures above?

After all, Jesus did say, “For you always have the poor with you….”  (Mark 14:7a)

Are we as Christ-followers then excused from caring for and ministering to the poor and homeless because they will always be with us? Absolutlely not!

On the contrary, we have a responsibility under God to minister – individually and congregationally – to the poor, destitute, and marginalized and seek their relief. We should be involved in identifying the individual and systemic causes of poverty and homelessness and then help bring about the needed changes in peoples’ lives, government, and society that will help lessen the number of those who live in such great and tragic need.

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Phillies – World Champs

October 30, 2008

The Philadelphia Phillies win the 2008 World Series in the fifth game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, 4 – 3.

Still Here

October 28, 2008

I do intend to post some more in the series started last week on the subject of poverty and homelessness. Last week ended up being incredibly busy, working a total of 71 hours, Monday through Saturday.

I expect this week to be a regular 55 hour work week with some time to publish a post in a couple of days.

Please come back and visit.

P.S. Go Phillies

Poverty Numbers

October 23, 2008

I would like to begin a short series of posts on poverty and homelessness by sharing some numbers about poverty in the United States. These percentages for 2007 come from the United States Census Bureau (Poverty: 2007 Highlights at http://www.census.gov) and the Institute for Research on Poverty.

  • The official United States poverty rate in 2007 was 12.5%, or 37.3 million people. This number is up from 36.5 million in 2006.
  • The poverty rate for children under 18 years of age increased from 17.4% in 2006 to 18.0%, or 13.3 million, in 2007.
  • The poverty rate for adults 65 years and older was 9.7%.
  • In 2007, the poverty rate for families was 9.8%, comprising 7.6 million families.
  • Of all family groups, poverty is highest among those headed by single women.
  • 28.3% of all female-headed families (4.1 million families) were poor, compared to 4.9% of married-couple families (2.8 million families).

I cannot explain how poverty rates and percentages are calculated and determined but I am confident that the Census Bureau and IRP numbers are right-on. These numbers are staggering.

It is a national shame that in the richest and most advanced nation in the world that so many of our fellow citizens, neighbors, and family members must struggle on a daily basis to provide their families and children with adequate housing, food, healthcare, education, and childcare. Many of the poor find themselves in such a tragic situation that they have no recourse but to “live on the street.”

Lest anyone of us who have adequate income, housing, food, and the basic necessities of life turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to the poor, let us remember that we are only a catastrophic illness, a tragic accident, or a lay-off from work – which is an increasingly threatening prospect for many in today’s economic environment – away from a life of poverty, and even possibly, homelessness.

Why Are People Homeless?

October 21, 2008

This past Saturday, my wife, family, and I drove to Waco, Texas to support our local high school band as they performed in a UIL marching competition.

We arrived in Waco about 10:30am, well before competition time, so that we could go onto the campus of Baylor University to see the bears (BU’s mascots) in their dens and eat our picnic lunch at a large, wooded park just west of downtown.

Nice middle-class things to do on beautiful Saturday day-trip.

But, as we drove through the city center area of Waco on the way to Cameron Park, we saw something not quite so beautiful … a number of homeless people sitting on street curbs at intersections, walking down side-streets, leaning against the walls of the Salvation Army, and riding bicycles with strapped-on milk crates that contained all of the biker’s worldly possessions. 

Our children were overcome by the sight of so many homeless people. They began to ask the kind of questions that you’d expect pre-teen and teen-age kids to ask: “Why are these people homeless?” “Where do they sleep at night?” “Don’t they have families and jobs?” “Where are they from?”

My wife and I tried to answer the kid’s questions as best as we could. Admittedly, the answers were very simple: “Homeless people are homeless for many reasons.” “They either sleep at the mission or on the street.” “They probably have family somewhere.” “They’re from everywhere.”

These simple answers seemed to satisfy our children’s curiosity, but we all know that the issue of poverty and homelessness is a very complex one. And it can be a very emotional and distasteful subject that many in comfortable, middle and upper-class America would rather ignore and not even talk about.

As we drove home after the marching competition later that afternoon I continued to think about my family’s conversation that morning about homelessness and poverty. When we got home I went to the computer and did some searching about poverty and homelessness. There’s alot of information out there and many organizations and community and faith-based groups seeking to bring relief to the impoverished and homeless.

Over the next week or so I would like to share with you some of the information that I am finding out about those who live in the “other” America of poverty and homelessness.

As I do, I pray that you and I will remember that we are not just talking about facts, numbers, and statistics, we are talking about men, women, boys, and girls – people just like you, me, and our families.

Imagine All The People….

October 16, 2008

A tremendous effort is being made today, Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty, to bring world-wide attention to the rampant poverty that exists in our world. Over 12,000 bloggers, podcasters, and videocasters from around the globe are committing their thoughts and energies to educating their readers, listeners, and viewers about the plague of poverty. It is our desire that we become more aware of and better educated about poverty and then engage in greater efforts – locally and gloabally – to eradicate poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

There are many government, non-profit, and faith organizations around the world that are, and have been, faithfully and tirelessly working to bring relief and aid to those who are poor, hungry, and without shelter. They provide food, housing, education, job training, and assistance in the creation of micro-businesses that will benefit individuals and communities. They seek to positively impact, change, and initiate government and public policies and programs that will advocate for and benefit those who reside in the “other” world of poverty.

Four of those organizations can be found under the heading of “Poverty” on this blog’s sidebar to the right. There are many others that can be found, in your community and around the world, simply by doing a Yahoo! or Google search.

One website that has provided me with quick and reliable information regarding poverty and related topics is the Global Issues website. There you’ll find information and articles about the causes of poverty, poverty around the world, poverty facts and statistics, and much more.

Here are some poverty facts and information found on the Global Issues website that should stir our hearts with compassion and motivate us to action on behalf of the world’s impoverished:

  • About half the world – over three billion people – live on less than $2.50 US a day
  • The poorest 40% of the world’s population accounts for 5% of global income. The richest 20% accounts for three-quarters of world income
  • According to UNICEF, 26,500-30,000 children die each day due to poverty
  • Some 1.1 billion people in developing countries have inadequate access to water, and 2.6 billion lack basic sanitation
  • There are 2.2 billion children in the world. One billion live in poverty
  • 10.6 million children died in 2003 before they reached the age of 5
  • 1.4 million children die each year from lack of access to safe drinking water and adequate sanitation
  • 2.2 million children die each year because they are not immunized
  • Approximately 790 million people in the developing world are still chronically undernourished, almost two-thrids of whom reside in Asia and the Pacific
  • In 2005, the wealthiest 20% of the world accounted for 76.6% of total private consumption. The poorest fifth just 1.5%
  • The world’s billionaires – just 497 people (approximately o.000008% of the world’s population) were worth $3.5 trillion (over 7% of world GDP)
  • 51% of the world’s 100 wealthiest bodies are corporations

(The facts that I have just shared with you, along with all of the information on the GI website, are documented and obtained from entities and organizations such as the United Nations, UNICEF, the World Bank, and the Institute for Policy Studies.)

My prayer is that as I reflect on the all of the blessings that my family and I have – good health, adequate and nourishing meals each day, comfortable housing, clothes for the different seasons, and reasonable income – that I will be more alert and sensitive to the physical, financial, and life needs of those around me. And that I will personally do what I can to help meet people’s needs, to be an advocate for the poor, and to help bring about legislative and structural change that will promote the welfare and betterment of all those who reside as “citizens” in the “other” world of poverty.

End Poverty

October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty is tomorrow, Wednesday, October 15, 2008.

On Blog Action Day over 9,400 registered bloggers, podcasters and videocasters are committing their October 15 blogs, podcasts, and videos to a discussion of the world-wide blight of poverty.

It is Blog Day’s intent to raise people’s awareness of the issue of poverty, hunger, and homelessness in our world and to initiate action that will bring poverty – what Michael Harrington referred to in his book, The Other America (1962), as the “other” world of the invisible, isolated and politically powerless poor- to an end.

But poverty is not simply an issue to be discussed. It is a reality in the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world. And it doesn’t just exist somewhere else. It exists in my community; it exists in yours. It is a travesty that must be addressed, dealt with, and eliminated.

You can find out more about Blog Action Day 2008 – Poverty at their website, along with information about how you can participate in the action, resources about poverty that will inform and move you, and a listing of registered participants.

Let’s pray and work together to meet people’s needs and end poverty.