Fwd: Women in Transition

Manfred Theis (manfredtheis@hotmail.com)
Sat, 14 Nov 1998 13:26:48 PST


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--------- Forwarded Message ---------

DATE: Fri, 13 Nov 1998 18:32:57
From: American Homeless Society <usahomeless@hotmail.com>
To: AHS-L@AMERICAN.EDU

Community shines light on homelessness

About 60 area residents gather to hear testimonies
from homeless people and to help find solutions to
the widespread problem.

Friday, November 13, 1998

By Greg Chandler
The Grand Rapids Press

Gegenna Clark says she is tired of hearing the
stereotypes of people who are homeless.

Clark, who has lived at the Villa Aurora shelter
in Holland for the last month-and-a-half with her
two children, has heard them all before -- they're
lazy, they're drug addicts, among others.

Her voice shaking with emotion at times, Clark
shared her story with about 60 people at a
candlelight vigil Thursday night at Centennial
Park. The rally called attention to the problem of
homelessness in the Holland area.

Clark's story does not fit the stereotype. Her
husband is in their native Georgia on a
work-release program, she said.

She would like to work but is eight-and-a-half
months pregnant and cannot, under doctor's orders.

Clark said she and her family tried living with
her mother in the Holland area but moved out
because the landlord wanted more rent for the
family to stay there -- money that her mother did
not have because she was out of work, the result
of General Motors strikes this summer.

Clark admits he can't change everyone's attitude
toward those who are homeless.

"I won't change the way everybody thinks, but if I
can change the mind of one person, and then that
person can change the mind of someone else, maybe
attitudes will start changing," said Clark, who
brought her daughter, Jasmine, 7, and son,
Treshaunne, 6, to the rally.

Clark hopes her situation will change soon. Her
husband is expected to be discharged from the
work-release program by the end of the month and
join the rest of the family.

She said she hopes to open a child-care business
to help people in situations similar to hers.

"I've talked to a lot of people in the shelters
who have a hard time getting into the work force
because they don't have any sitters," she said.

The lack of available child care has been cited as
a factor in the homeless problem, particularly
among single parents who struggle to earn a living
for their families.

Loretta Robinson, who also lives at Villa Aurora
with her four children, said she has had to quit
several jobs because of a lack of available child
care.

"I'd rather work than be on aid," Robinson said.

"I want to provide for my family."

A recent survey conducted by local social service
agencies found about 140 people in the Holland
area are homeless.

Of that number, 117 lived in shelters, while
another 23 had other living arrangements -- living
with family members, living in their car, among
other situations -- said Leroy Hernandez, interim
executive director of Community Action House.

About 60 percent of the homeless people cited in
the survey consisted of families headed by single
women, Hernandez said, while 45 to 50 percent of
those who are homeless are children.

A communitywide effort is needed to combat the
problem of homelessness, said Jeanette Emenheiser,
program director at the Center for Women In
Transition, a Holland Township-based shelter that
works with victims of domestic abuse.

"It'll take more than just all the agencies
working together. It'll take more than just the
businesses providing good jobs. It'll take more
than all the builders building affordable homes,"
Emenheiser said.

"It'll take us all, first to be aware of the
problem, then taking action to solve it."

Copyright 1998 Michigan Live Inc.


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