Homelessness, a symptom

To wrap up the final day of orientation this afternoon, we had a long, insightful discussion about urban v. rural homelessness with Lance, the director of La Puente.

Since it’s getting late, here are a few things I wrote down from the discussion:

-Is homelessness a societal or a personal issue?

-Homelessness is not a problem, but a symptom: Lack of affordable housing; unemployment or underemployment; the breakdown of the family, including domestic violence; lack of care for the mentally ill; addictions; limited care for veterans; lack of health insurance or access to health care for the poor; attitudes erode the opportunities available to people (Eg: racism, sexism, culturalism)

-Colorado is defunding shelters and giving out housing vouchers instead.

-Despite the larger numbers of homeless people in cities, 95% of the highest rates of homelessness are in rural areas.

-40% of those La Puente serves each year are migrant workers.

-74% of children in Alamosa County are eligible for free or reduced lunch.

-Rural counties continue to increase in poverty.

-Homeless numbers in the Valley are not accurately shown in data and this data changes government policy and decides where funding goes.

-There are high rates of homelessness and poverty when there’s only one main industry. Rural areas are isolated from urban resources and if their one main industry collapses, there’s a huge increase in poverty and homelessness. Alamosa is predominantly an agricultural-based economy, with a small tourism industry. Bad weather—a drought—is all that it takes to have the rate of poverty skyrocket.

-Chronically homeless v. first-time homeless: The government is constantly trying to tackle homelessness from different angles. When they saw there was an increase in chronically homeless over the years, they invested all of their time and money into services for those who have been homeless multiple years. They dropped the rate of chronic-homelessness by 11%; however, first-time homelessness dramatically increased upwards to 200-300%.

-Can’t end homelessness in the Valley, but the best goal is to make the transition into stability as fast as possible.

-Urban counties get twice as much money per homeless person than rural counties.

-3,500-4,500 people come to harvest in the San Luis Valley each year, and there is no housing for them.

-3.31 million people in the US are likely to experience homelessness during this year:

1. 15-26% are unemployed (depending on region)

2. 44% are children

3. 59% have neither public nor private health insurance

4. 25% are veterans

5. 20-25% have mental illness

6. 13% of the homeless are experiencing their first episode of homelessness * rural=66%

7. single men=45%; single women=15%; member of a family=40%

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