[Hpn] More HOMELESS WORK as welfare cuts push poor into low-wage jobs fw fw

Tom Boland wgcp@earthlink.net
Tue, 28 Nov 2000 17:11:13 -0800 (PST)

FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Nov 27, 2000


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ The number of working people using homeless
shelters has increased in recent years because so many jobs pay low
wages and offer no benefits, according to people who work with the

One in four homeless adults who sought shelter with the
Salvation Army in Wichita last year was working. And at Catholic
Charities' Anthony Family Center, 40 percent of the homeless adults
are employed.

The increasing number of working homeless is one of the issues
Wichita city officials are considering as they work on ways to help
the homeless.

``A lot of our clientele are working at minimum-wage jobs or
temporary jobs,'' said Lynn Tatlock, director of homeless services
for the Salvation Army. ``They're jobs where they're not getting
any benefits.''

If a family member becomes ill, many people have to decide
between medication and rent. Or if the car breaks down, they no
longer have transportation to their jobs, she said.

The agencies' observations were noted in a recent report to the
Wichita City Council.

City officials will use the report to develop plans for helping
agencies serving the homeless. They hope to have a proposal by next

On any given night, an estimated 600 people are homeless in

Calondra Woodard, 23, is one of them.

She and her 3-year-old son live at the Inter-Faith Inn homeless
shelter. She started working at Wal-Mart in September and is saving
money to move into an apartment.

She fell on hard times after she was laid off from a different
job last year and ran out of rent money.

After finding a job, Woodard hopes never to be homeless again.

``It's all working out,'' she said.

The city now spends more than $2 million a year _ largely
federal grant money _ on homeless programs. Much of the money
provides permanent, low-cost housing for low-income and homeless

Mayor Bob Knight wouldn't say whether the city would be willing
to spend more, but he did say, ``They deserve, certainly, some of
our resources and time.''

Knight, president of the National League of Cities until
December, said Wichita mirrors a national trend of more working
people becoming homeless.

The good economy hasn't necessarily helped everyone, said Jacque
Gibbons, a professor of social work at Kansas State University.

For example, home prices have risen under the thriving economy,
making it harder to find low-cost housing, Gibbons said.

To address the problem, the federal government recently
increased aid for rental housing in nearly 40 cities, including
Wichita, where low-cost housing was scarce.

Welfare reform, approved by Congress in 1996, limited the amount
of time people can spend on the welfare rolls to five years.

As a result, many people took whatever job they could find, said
Lisa O'Dell-Davis, director of shelters and emergency services for
Catholic Charities.

Sandy Swank, director of homeless ministries for Inter-Faith
Ministries, sees clients come into the agency's shelter at night
after working all day. They eat, sleep a few hours, then awaken
early to go back to work, she said.

Many of them took minimum-wage jobs just to find work quickly,
she said.

``The fact of the matter is ... it's very hard for people to
survive on minimum wage,'' Swank said.

The federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. But a single adult in
Sedgwick County needs to make at least $6.56 an hour to be
self-sufficient, according to a Kansas State University study that
Gibbons participated in. A single adult with an infant needs $12.84
an hour, the study said.

City government could help by expanding city bus services and
working to provide more affordable child care, Tatlock said.

AP-CS-11-27-00 1445EST
Received  Id AP100332F385F1F4 on Nov 27 2000 16:44


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