What do an alcoholic former firefighter, a 56 year old veteran with schizophrenia, an 18 year old girl with a newborn, and a mom, dad and 2 kids have in common? They are all homeless in
. The causes of homelessness include mental illness, substance abuse, unemployment, eviction, poverty, domestic violence, and lack of insurance. Kansas City
When most people think of homelessness they visualize a single unkempt man in his 50s with a substance abuse problem who lives under a bridge and flies a sign on the street corner. Many don’t stop to think how did he get under the bridge? Where is his family? Did he have a job? Some of the kindest, most gracious people I know are chronically homeless. Circumstance and trauma in their lives have led them to their bridge.
How many of us stop and think about the homeless man on the corner? The man, a veteran, who served multiple tours as a special forces sniper who now suffers from schizophrenia and post traumatic stress syndrome. His paranoia makes it difficult for him to seek treatment for his illness and his PTSD makes being around people trying. It is challenging for him to get services. Without medication and treatment, it is impossible for him to get housing.
Most people don’t think of a teen who ran away when she was 14 years old to escape sexual abuse and beatings as one of the homeless. A girl who, despite many obstacles, completed high school and doesn’t use drugs. This girl is an excellent parent and highly motivated to improve her life so that her daughter doesn’t grow up the same way.
Often a family with 2 parents and 2 children isn’t the “typical” face of homelessness. The dad lost his job when his employer was forced to close the shop. The mom can’t work due to health problems. The family lost their apartment when the landlord stopped making payments and the building was foreclosed. The priority for the family is staying together. They have no health insurance, no place to stay and despite looking daily for work, no employment.
Homelessness can impact anyone at any time. Nationally it is estimated that 3.5 million people experience homelessness. Additionally, 1 in 50 children is homeless annually. Homelessness negatively impacts every aspect of a child’s life – education, health, mental health, nutrition, family, and development.
Homelessness is a complex issue that requires thoughtful, comprehensive services. There is no easy or quick fix. It is not a problem that belongs only to one group of people; it belongs to the entire community. The homeless aren’t scary strangers. They are our neighbors, our friends, our family. They are us.
Kelly Welch, Executive Director