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State and County homeless numbers rise

caines | 3/8/2012, 4 a.m.

Black families continue to bear the brunt of the economic downturn as more find themselves unable to secure stable housing or to make ends meet. In a report just released by the Institute for Children, Poverty and Homelessness [ICPH], in 2010, one out of every 141 Black families stayed in a homeless shelter a rate seven times higher than members of white families. The unfortunate fact is that Black families in the U.S. are much more likely to experience poverty than their white counterparts and are overwhelmingly represented in homeless shelters throughout the country, said Ralph da Costa Nunez, ICPH president and CEO. This report raises the question of how family homelessness has moved beyond simply a poverty issue and become a racial one. Prejudice and access barriers that Blacks continue to face lead to higher rates of poverty and unemployment, lower educational attainment and ultimately homelessness, said Matthew Adams, principal policy analyst, ICPH. But Ronald L. Book, chairman, Miami-Dade Homeless Trust, says the numbers in Miami are not as dramatic as the report indicates. Given the jobless rate and the overall socioeconomic conditions in Florida and across the U.S., its no surprise that Blacks are disproportionately represented, he said. Miami-Dade has not seen the kind of spike in numbers that other areas have experienced because we have taken our outreach program to portions of the County where the homeless tend to congregate downtown, the urban core and the inner city.

Homelessness occurs for a number of reasons

Book notes that the emphasis of outreach workers is to persuade people to participate in the various programs offered by the Homeless Trust. He says there are a number of reasons why people find themselves homeless. Theres a difference between situational and chronic homelessness but the majority of families and individuals are in need because of the economy theyve lost their jobs or have been downgraded in their work status, Book said. We have increased our efforts at reaching the chronically homeless that is, a person that has been homeless for 365 days or more in a calendar year. They often face other problems including mental health and substance or alcohol abuse. Some people turn their noses up at the homeless but we say it could happen to any of us we must find ways to solve the problem. Its certainly less expensive to help someone find housing and pay their utilities than to foot the bill for someone who goes to Jackson Memorial Hospitals emergency room over a dozen times in a year. By D. Kevin McNeir