Homelessness: The Family Portrait

As recent clients of the Coalition, this family of four depicts the increasing numbers of homeless families the Washington Post reports.

The Washington Post reported Monday that the economic crisis is affecting families, such as this family at the Coalition, in record numbers.

An article in Monday’s Washington Post highlighted “The Family Portrait” of homelessness, echoing the growing sentiment that the face of homelessness is changing. Washington Post staff writer Chris L. Jenkins asserts that homelessness can no longer be pictured as “a man or woman living on the street and panhandling for loose change.” Instead, Jenkins claims the economic downturn, unemployment rates and foreclosure crisis are affecting families in record numbers.

And according to our numbers at Coalition for the Homeless, it seems that Jenkins is right. Last fiscal year, we experienced a 17% increase in families using our services. That increase means a total of 548 families utilized our numerous programs in just one year. This year we have continued to see large numbers of families in need of aid; last month alone we provided services to 81 homeless families.

But what does this increase really mean? Jenkins discovered an answer, reporting that,

“Experts who study homelessness and poverty said the increase in homeless families illustrates how severely the economic crisis is affecting middle- and working-class households and how the worsening economy is pushing more people toward poverty.”

As the recession continues to deepen, we wonder how many more families will come through our doors. If the recession is affecting middle- and working-class households, as Jenkins reports, then “the changing face of homelessness” is true: the homeless are not just strangers on street corners – they can be our neighbors, our friends and our families.

As our nation becomes aware of this somber reality, we must ask the question – how will our community respond?

For a link to the full story, click here.