About a week ago, I downloaded a report issued last November by mortgage giant Fannie Mae.
The report, Homelessness in America – Americans’ Perceptions, Attitudes and Knowledge , was put together by the well known polling company Gallup.
The 55 page report held some interesting statistics. Here are some highlights:
Most people were predisposed to believe that while homelessness was on the rise nationwide, 49 percent believed that the numbers of homeless in their own communities remained relatively the same; 34 percent felt that the numbers were increasing in their communities and 12 percent believed that the numbers of homeless in their communities were decreasing.
85 percent believe drug and alcohol abuse to be a major cause of homelessness.
When it comes to how government is handling homelessness, 58 percent believe that government is doing a poor job handling homelessness and more needs to be done; 34 percent believe the government is doing a good job, but more needs to be done; and 6 percent think that government is doing a great job dealing with homelessness.
Most people polled believed that their own communities were doing a better job at handling homelessness overall than the nation as a whole is.
46 percent believe that homelessness among Veterans has increased over the last ten years. 22 percent believe that Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) are more likely to become homeless than Veterans from earlier conflicts.
41 percent agree that their communities should construct more affordable housing units to serve the needs of all of its citizens.
19 percent believe that the homeless would have a better chance at becoming self-sustaining if they were able to receive proper housing.
28 percent admit to having worried, at one time or another, that they themselves might become homeless.
43 percent say that medical expenses/emergencies might cause them to become homeless; 38 percent believe that job loss could cause them to become homeless; and 33 percent believe the high cost of housing might cause them to become homeless.
44 percent report that they had taken in a relative or friend to help them avoid becoming homeless.
91 percent believe that homelessness cannot be totally eliminated; 80 percent state that they would be willing to volunteer their time to organizations that provide services to the homeless; 87 percent would be willing to make donations to homeless support services agencies; and 54 percent would be willing to pay more taxes to help fund programs that help the homeless.
I find it interesting that the majority of people polled believed that more was needed to be done by government to remedy homelessness. Yet, not one of the current Presidential "wanna be’s" has actually brought up the subject of homelessness.
I also find it interesting that 87 percent said that they would be willing to make donations to organizations the provide services to the homeless. But, the report doesn’t make mention how many of that 87 percent actually do make donations.
Additionally, there are the 85 percent who believe drug and alcohol abuse a major reason for homelessness. Yet, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Addiction Disorder and Homelessness , only about 26 percent of America’s homeless have an addition disorder.
The report was an eye opener. But more than anything else, it only served to reinforce my personal belief that, as a nation, we still have a long way to go – and a lot to learn.
If we truly want to reduce the numbers of homeless, then we are going to have to make the time to educate ourselves about this debilitating condition. We’re going to have to let go of our misconceptions and ill formed ideas regarding who can become homeless.
With our economy in as bad a shape as it currently is, I’m willing to bet that there are a lot more people whose lives are precariously situated than are willing to admit.
The rising cost of housing; a record numbers of foreclosures; in excess of 250,000 job losses since the beginning of the year; 47 million Americans who lack health care insurance; a potential food shortage in this country: it all spells out the possibility of many more American’s calling the streets of this nation’s cities home.
It’s just a question of who’s next to become homeless.
Perhaps it would be a good idea to remember this the next time you happen to spot a homeless person: homelessness is an equal opportunity affliction.
There are very few American’s who are completely immune to the potential of becoming homeless. Someone you know could be next. Maybe even you.