BRADENTON -- Adell Erozer, Executive Director of the Community Coalition on Homelessness (CCH), has been working with community groups to implement a vision that delivers a variety of services to reduce the number of people requiring assistance with food and shelter. The successes have been many including feeding the hungry and sheltering those without a roof, but the numbers keep growing, and everyday the challenges are greater.
In the Manatee County's 2009/2010 school year Project Heart identified 1831 children, under 18 years old, as homeless or soon to be homeless. Last year, there were a reported 2026, which is over a 10% annual increase, and that's only the children that are known to be homeless. How is this acceptable you are surely asking.
There are many things we all can do to turn this trend around. First of all, know that those less fortunate, are like you and me. They are without a house and enough to eat, but not without a heart or a soul. Many are veterans and have given some of their best years to insure our safety. They are victims of outsourced jobs, closed down factories and the children of parents who were hammered with unforeseen medical costs.
Homelessness extends beyond just those who have no place of their own. Those who are out of work and lose a house or apartment are marginalized in many ways. Getting hired without a permanent address is unlikely, especially when so many people are competing for each opening. Those with families are often compromised when choosing the best environment for their children. Increasingly, Americans who only a few years ago were at very low risk are becoming homeless owed to nothing more than prolonged unemployment and a lack of a strong support network.
More and more are also finding themselves food insecure, meaning they may have a home, but are unable to keep it while still sustaining themselves with adequate nourishment, skipping meals in order to make the mortgage or rent. As Manatee County enters its 10-year plan to end homelessness, hold your community leaders, commissioners and business leaders' feet to the fire, to guarantee the wherewithal to do so. Connect with organizations that believe hunger is an ugly picture and are dedicated to stopping this trend in it's tracks. Get involved with a local soup kitchen or an organization that collects clothing for those in needs. Nothing binds a community together like taking care of its own.
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