March 13, 2012
Dear Bethel Patch,
I’m a senior Social Work student at Western Connecticut State University. Our class is currently doing a community organizing project on homelessness. This includes throwing educational events, engaging in advocacy activity, etc. Throughout this process, many of us have learned a great deal about the issue of homelessness.
According to fact sheets found on the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness’ website (www.cceh.org), there were 158 individuals counted as homeless in Danbury during the 2011 point in time count. Keep in mind, that’s just during one night. Over the course of the entire year, more than 800 people in the Danbury area experienced homelessness at one point. 17% of these include families with children.
There are many misconceptions about the issue of homelessness. How many times have people said, “They want to be homeless; they’re all addicts or alcoholics; they’re lazy.” We hear statements like that all of the time. The fact of the matter is that there’s a world of ignorance about the issue of homelessness. Some common reasons for homelessness are as follows: physical disabilities, expensive medical problems, home foreclosure, job lay-offs, domestic violence, lack of affordable housing – we could increase the list ad infinitum.
In addition to the reasons why individuals become homeless, most people aren’t aware of the various ways that homelessness can manifest. These aren’t only people living on the streets. Homeless people may also be couch surfing, living in their cars, or staying in a motel. You must also consider women and children who are staying in shelters because of domestic violence. Many of us have a picture in our head of what a homeless person looks like, but the fact is that the face of homelessness is quite broad. Most important to know is that the problem of homelessness is increasing. In Danbury, there was an increase of 3% from 2009 to 2010. In other parts of the state and around the country, the increase is much more dramatic.
You may be saying to yourself, “This young man makes some good points, but what can I do about it?” Actually, you can do a great deal simply by following the news on the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness website – www.cceh.org. This site will provide you with opportunities to write to your representatives and will even give you form letters to use. Also on the site, fact sheets about homelessness are made available that can be read, e-mailed to friends, shared on social networking sites, printed out and posted in public places, etc. Take a little time to be part of the solution.
Talk about homelessness with people. Educate yourself and educate others. Write to your representatives about legislative agenda items that affect programs that help the homeless. Remember that it can happen to any of us. If you want to learn more about our community organizing project and our upcoming events, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to check out the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness at www.cceh.org.