[Hpn] Editorial: Invisible to most, homeless on rise

William Charles Tinker wtinker@verizon.net
Wed, 09 Aug 2006 05:07:15 -0400


Editorial: Invisible to most, homeless on rise

Economic conditions and personal problems contribute to homelessness on 
Treasure Coast

August 9, 2006

Among the shining cities of the Treasure Coast, they are the shadow people, 
known to social-service workers, but not many others. They are the homeless, 
living in wooded areas, vacant lots and buildings, in automobiles, any place 
they can get out of the wind and rain.
The stereotypical homeless person is a male, often unkempt and blamed for 
his own plight. More often than not, the adults are unmarried, undereducated 
and frequently beset with mental or emotional problems that predated their 
time on the streets.

But there are women and children, too, some victims of abuse, others of 
catastrophic financial situations, such as a severe illness.
Thanks to the work of reporter Ed Bierschenk and photojournalist Molly 
Bartels, some of these people are no longer faceless, their stories reported 
in the newspaper and on TCPalm.com.
The two journalists documented the plight of the homeless living in one of 
the wealthiest areas of the state - Indian River County - but there are more 
who pass unnoticed elsewhere. Their work has shown that not every homeless 
person is a drug addict or other ne'er-do-well, and that some are in their 
situation through no fault of their own.
No one knows how many homeless people there are on the Treasure Coast. The 
Office of Homelessness of the Florida Department of Children and Families 
estimates there are about 2,609 people without a home here, up from 1,008 
last year.
The state estimates there are 741 homeless in Indian River County, 813 in 
St. Lucie County and 296 in Okeechobee County. The numbers are all up 
substantially this year over last. Social workers say the hurricanes, rising 
rents and a lack of affordable housing caused the increase.
"We think there are more than 759 homeless persons in Martin County," said 
Schonna Green, founder of Mothers and Infants Striving for Success in Martin 
County, "but there are many more who don't even know they are homeless 
because they are jammed in with several other women and their children into 
old homes."
While the numbers are up, the situation is not hopeless. Many people and 
many agencies are working to alleviate the homeless problem. The most 
successful are programs that promote self-sufficiency, job-training, 
education and life skills. These are positive, proactive alternatives to 
handouts and welfare programs that too often perpetuate a cycle of 
dependence and victimization.
Becoming self-sufficient is critical. No program, no matter how well funded, 
can do all things for all people; responsibility ultimately comes down to 
personal choices - learning a trade and keeping a job, finding day care, 
avoiding vices and their dangerous potential.
The building blocks to a better life and a home are founded on education, 
honest work and the forming and maintaining of stable family relationships. 
Failure to make proper choices opens the door to the storms of life and 
merely ensures future generations of homeless. 

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