There are millions of people of all stripes, creed, age, ethnicity, gender, life stages, and backgrounds in this country, whom are struggling to simply survive and have to live in their cars, in shelters, in cardboard boxes, on the street, or worse.
The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty approximated in 2007 that 3.5 million people are likely to experience homelessness in a given year. The National Coalition for the Homeless states that homelessness is compounded by and linked to several additional factors, including: lack of affordable healthcare, domestic violence, mental illness, addiction disorders, lack of employment opportunities, and a lack of affordable housing options.
Not only do the homeless suffer from an array of issues including hunger, poor health, and drug addictions, they are dehumanized and face an onslaught of discrimination and hate crimes and a decline in public assistance.
Montana was ranked 34th in the nation for the percentage of homeless people in our population with an extremely low likelihood of acts of discrimination or hate against them. However, in states like California, ranked 4th in the nation for the percentage of homeless in the overall population, over 200 individual acts of hate were reported between 1999 and 2009, a quarter of which resulted in death. (Figures provided by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. “Point-in-Time Estimates from January 2009 of Homeless Population by State.” 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report.)
What’s more is that support and aid for these individuals has grown at a drastically disproportionate rate. In 2006-2008, TANF, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, caseloads have continued to decline while food stamp caseloads have increased, according to a report from Children’s Defense Fund. This fact forces more people and families to seek solace from nonprofit assistance programs which are already above capacity. The Poverello Center in Missoula, MT states that they regularly board 42% above their capacity of 70 shelter guests.
All too often as groups or as individuals, we speak about helping the poor and having “good intentions”. I, for one, am tired of sitting on the sidelines, doing nothing and am compelled to do something, anything, to improve the chances of the homeless in my community and across America. I want to sow some seeds of hope and opportunity by helping to give our homeless citizens a fighting chance to become the best they can humanly be.
I have a mission, and I want it to be our mission. I want to address the issues of hunger and homelessness by breaking down barriers of stereotype, increasing awareness and financially supporting current programs that successfully fight the effects of hunger, homelessness and poverty throughout the nation.
Through many individual voices, I believe we can create one very loud, inexorable raucous that will demand the attention this issue deserves. Through this one collective and conscious voice, we can then work toward bringing about changes that will keep people gainfully employed, sheltered, fed, and healthy, which will lead to strengthening our nation, economically and morally.
Through many small donations, we can build the financial capacity to allot existing organizations further develop or launch programs that will assist in not only providing a meal and a bed for those in need, but will also work toward reducing the number of those who are in need by helping them become more self-sufficient. A donation of $14.60 is all we ask from each individual willing to help make this a reality. Although a small, odd number, each penny is equal to one mile walked by a homeless person over the span of one year. The goal is to reach $1,000,000 by receiving donations from over 68,000 informed, compassionate and enthusiastic individuals. That’s approximately one donor for every 50 homeless people in the United States.