Each November the National Coalition for the Homeless and the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness co-sponsor National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week. The good news is that during this week – Nov. 12-18 in 2011 – groups across the country organize events to improve what has become a major crisis in our country.
The very bad news is the crisis itself – job loss, illness and other economic hardships have left more families homeless than ever before. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, each year 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness and on any given night 649,917 people are homeless. Children make up 23 percent of the homeless population on any given night. Additionally, newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that there are 46.2 million Americans now living in poverty.
These are shocking numbers, but Mercy Housing continues to effect change. Affordable housing is a key to solving the homeless crisis. Today much of our nation’s affordable housing stock is being converted into condo complexes or high-end commercial property. While good news for developers, this does nothing to solve the homeless situation.
Without permanent housing, people are unable to keep their jobs and are likely to become ill. With permanent housing, people have stability that helps them find and retain employment with health benefits.
The news isn’t all bad. Since 2007, the number of people who are chronically homeless has decreased by 11 percent. The decrease in chronic homelessness is partially a result of the expansion of permanent supportive housing programs.
Examples of Mercy Housing’s permanent supportive housing programs are found from the Johnston Center Residences in Milwaukee, Wis., to the Caroline Severance Manor in Los Angeles, Calif., — just two examples of the solutions we are developing across 41 states to help the families and individuals who are merely a paycheck, illness or accident away from living on the streets.
In honor of National Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week, you can contribute, advocate, reach out by volunteering and educate others on the national crisis. Find additional ways to give at MercyHousing.org.