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Monday, April 15, 2024

Financial crisis leads to more homelessness

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President Barack Obama says the American financial crisis will only get worse before it gets better. Citizens have already felt the squeeze of increased expenses and decreased resources to pay those expenses.

Many families are even finding themselves homeless or one paycheck away from starting down a slippery slope to homelessness.

For those who are at the bottom of the financial barrel, experts understand the difficulties ahead, yet ask those who are staying afloat to help.

More clients at Horizon House

Losing a job, being unable to keep up with the rent due to rising costs or a landlord defaulting on a mortgage note are a few of the reasons residents are finding themselves homeless for the first time.

Carter Wolf, CEO of Horizon House, a homeless multi-service day center, states the number of clients they serve has increased. He says when clients come through their doors, they’re emotionally broken and desperate for help.

“We have over 200 people a day in here, but we help clients with immediate needs like a shower, then work to move them to other services like employment or mental health help,” said Wolf. “Sometimes this is a short journey, sometimes it’s a long journey. We’re even trying to hire two people to help with these needs.”

Holy Family Shelter

Bill Bickel, director of the Holy Family Shelter is also seeing a rise in homeless families. While the shelter only services 22 families, the organization feels it’s important to keep the family together during the difficult situation.

Families of all sorts are going through difficult times but what makes the multiple and complex problems newly homeless people are facing additionally complicated is that the majority of them are employed.

Bickel states that 40 percent of the families that come in Holy Family Shelter’s doors are already working. The image of the homeless man panhandling on the side of the road has shifted.

“The public doesn’t see our families. What’s unseen behind every guy on the side of the road panhandling, are families that look like any other family. Physically, 75 percent of that homeless family are children,” said Bickel.

While homelessness is moving more toward working families, a large majority of the newly homeless have lost jobs due to the American financial crisis. The Status of Working Families Report conducted by the Indiana Coalition on Housing and Homeless Issues states that while Indiana is doing better than most states, poverty levels have been climbing since 1999.

Financial advisor Michael Shinn states the national unemployment rate has gone from 5 percent to 7.2 percent yet these numbers are even higher for Blacks.

With apartments and other financial institutions putting the squeeze on credit and becoming more selective, finding affordable housing is even more difficult.

Several reasons for problem

The newly homeless and families who are one pay check away from becoming homeless are having a difficult time, but Shinn states the financial market alone is not to blame for the newly homeless.

Spending is up while employment and families saving money for financial hardships or retirement is down. He states many families never believed they’d literally be out in the cold.

“Some of us are blessed, but we’re all vulnerable. When you see the economy changing, it’s not just about you being able to keep a job. It could be other factors,” said Wolf.

All hope may seem to be lost, but Shinn states families in survival mode can turn their situation around. He suggests families assess the situation and come together and create plans and goals – together. Families should also determine what assets they have and find and utilize resources to move forward. Find out what you can do without, such as cable and obtain multiple sources of income including a part time job since primary employment is never guaranteed.

Families should further take advantage of resources if necessary such as employment services, food pantries and purchasing second hand clothing. No matter what plan of action a family decides to take, Bickel states families who are living paycheck to paycheck should seek help immediately.

Families who never believed they would be homeless are finding themselves in shelters or living with families or friends. Other families are barely surviving and finding themselves in shelters or living in their cars.

Non-profit organizations are asking those who are surviving the financial storm to help those who are in desperate need or most importantly, give money to a non-profit of their choice.

For more information call (317) 423-8909 or visit www.horizonhouse.cc; Holy Family Shelter at (317) 635-7830 or visit www.holyfamilyshelter.net; Coalition for Homelessness Intervention and Prevention at (317) 630-0853 or visit www.chipindy.org; or call 211.

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