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February 6, 2013

ANDERSON: A brief history of poverty and homelessness

(Continued)

No money, just a heavy responsibility. 

Many of the nonprofits affected stood up to the plate, but the housing crisis created by the cuts could not be absorbed into the local community. Public housing began to fall into disrepair, Section 8 rental assistance was frozen and the support systems set up were eliminated or greatly diminished. 

The counties closed county homes because they couldn’t afford the cost of running them. Some agencies were fortunate enough (like Community Mental Health Centers) to be written into legislation on a federal, state and local level. Others were not so fortunate. 

In 1969, Floyd County was No. 28 in ranking for the poor and Clark was No. 24. the good news is that Floyd is now No. 15, and Clark is No. 22. 

The disparity occurred when the county seat of Clark County, Jeffersonville, became larger than New Albany for the first time in its history. Today, Clark County has a poverty ranking of 11.9 percent for adults and 40 percent of our children receiving free or reduced lunch. Floyd County reduced to 11.4 percent with 42 percent of their children receiving free or reduced lunch.

While our numbers have gone down, our middle class has disappeared. That is the reality of the picture. It takes $12.57 per hour to live adequately in this community. Minimum wage is $7.25, and in service-industry jobs, little more than that is paid. More than two-thirds of those we served at the shelter last year had some employment but could not afford a home to live in, could not afford health care for their children and do not know when they will be able to. 

So, how we got here is complicated. That we are here is not. The definition for homelessness has been debated for 20 years, but it is simple —those without a home. 

People with resources don’t have to live in shelters, people with access to education do no need publicly funded programs and people with food are not hungry. But we have all of these in our community. 

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