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Who are the Homeless?

I fully understand the debate about where we should put the homeless citizens of our community. I don’t understand the cold disdain many have for this vulnerable population.  I’m going to assume, because I’m going to try to believe the best about people, that they don’t understand what can lead someone to homelessness.  Most of us haven’t been faced with what some of these individuals have – we haven’t walked in their shoes; but we judge them.  We seem to have become hardened to the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves.  I can’t imagine the pain of having to move my family to the streets and leave behind all they knew.

11% of homeless individuals in Rockford are employed.  Surprised?  Don’t be.  In the Rockford MSA, someone making minimum wage would have to work 126 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment.  Our public housing  authority has a wait list of 2,000 people and they receive approximately 100 new applications per month.  There is a lack of affordable housing in Rockford – low income people pay around 80% or more of their income to housing.

9% of our homeless are veterans; 26% are victims of domestic violence who have no where to go once they flee their abuser.  Sadly, 39% of Rockford’s homeless have been diagnosed with a mental illness.  Unfortunately, the changes coming to mental health services imposed by the State may only make this a greater problem.

We all have the NIMBY attitude at some point and in relation to some issue.  Let’s not close our eyes to the problem though and pretend that Rockford is the only community in northern Illinois that experiences homelessness.  The City and human service providers need to work together to solve this sad situation and do it in a coordinated effort that stabilizes the person or family and then moves them to self-sufficiency.

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5 Comments

  1. I couldn’t find the number of homeless families.. but that’s the stat that always stops me cold.

  2. KKieper

    In the recently updated Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness Strategic Plan, it estimates that approximately 2000 people are homeless in Rockford on any given day; nearly 300 of them are families.

  3. Matt Toohey

    Unfortunately many can’t or won’t relate to the plight of the homeless unless they or someone close to them are in that situation. For a community with hundreds of Christian churches the message of the Gospel seems to have been lost here.

  4. I have worked with some folks struggling to stabilize their housing situation, and counseling is the last thing on their mind when it is cold out, and there is no place to stay warm.

  5. Cathy Johnson

    Amen, Matt.