‘You Can Make a Difference’
The homeless epidemic in the United States is not something most Americans like to talk about — especially since we live in one of the richest nations in the world. But the sad fact remains that anywhere from 700,000 to 2 million people are homeless in America, according to estimates of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty. A December 2000 report of the U.S. Conference of Mayors found:
- Single men comprise 44 percent of the homeless, families with children 36 percent, single women 13 percent and unaccompanied minors 7 percent.
- The homeless population is about 50 percent African-American, 35 percent white, 12 percent Hispanic, 2 percent Native American and 1 percent Asian.
A 1996 National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients found:
- 44 percent did paid work during the previous month.
- 21 percent received income from family members or friends.
- 30 percent had been homeless for more than two years.
These statistics are humbling. They show that even with help from family and friends, even when homeless persons find work, it’s not always enough to get them off the streets.
A unique organization in Philadelphia is fighting to change those numbers. The mission of the Project H.O.M.E. community is to “empower adults, children and families to break the cycle of homelessness and poverty, to alleviate the underlying causes of poverty, and to enable all of us to attain our fullest potential as individuals and as members of the broader society.”
Project H.O.M.E. does this through street outreach, supportive housing and comprehensive services, tackling the root causes of homelessness through neighborhood-based affordable housing, economic development and environmental enhancement programs, as well as through providing access to employment opportunities, adult and youth education, and health care.
Anyone who has tried to raise funds for homeless support efforts knows there can be challenges. It’s not a glamorous cause. It can be a problem we walk quickly away from when we see it on the streets. But Project H.O.M.E. has found some effective techniques to keep its efforts going.