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February 27, 2013

ANDERSON: Debunking the myths: Homelessness in our area

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of guest columns from Barbara Anderson on poverty and homelessness in the area. Read previous columns at newsandtribune.com

 

After 30 years in the field, I find it amazing that some of the myths around homelessness and poverty still exist and on much the same level as when we began in this work. 

My cousin Jim used to say, “Life is a minute movie.” Sometimes it feels that way because you tell the story and then you tell it again and then you tell it again and someone says, “If Haven House didn’t exist, would we still have homeless?” 

Homelessness didn’t happen because we built a shelter; it did happen because we as a community have a volume of poverty that has exceeded our capacity to house the people in our community. Special-needs housing is strongly needed, as is affordable, permanent housing for the general population. 

What I want to do in this column is dispel some of the myths around the people living in poverty. Things I hear often when making presentations are:

 

We don’t really have that much homelessness, do we? 

Yes, we do. An average for any population nationally is 1 percent of your community, and last year we served an unduplicated 1,549 people.

That means that roughly 2 percent of our population experiences homelessness.

 

They aren’t local people; they are from Louisville or all over the country.

Wrong. Of those we served, 728, or 47 percent, were from Clark County including 579 from  Jeffersonville/Clarksville, 81 from Charlestown, 48 from  Sellersburg,  and 20 from Henryville.

Floyd County represented the next largest group of people with 26 percent, or 403 people. The bulk of those folks were from New Albany proper, with 43 people coming from the county region.

Scott County is represented by a total of 59 people or 3.8 percent of our total population; Harrison County is represented by a total of 4 percent or 62 people; Washington County is represented by a total of 3 percent or 46 people; Jefferson County, Ky., is represented  by 202 people. 

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