About 3.5 million people are likely to experience homelessness in a given year, and about 1.4 million of those individuals sleeping on streets will be children, according to a 2007 National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty.
A panel spoke about the increasing number of homeless individuals in Boston and ways citizens could aid people on street corners at Suffolk University Thursday afternoon.
Currently, the number of homeless adults in Boston hovers around the 4,000 range, but the number of homeless families is growing, Emergency Shelter commissioner Jim Greene said.
‘We have entered a war economy and it has been guns, not butter,’ he said. ‘As a result, family homelessness has just exploded.’
Gov. Deval Patrick’s five-year plan to erase homelessness in Massachusetts by 2013, instituted by the Massachusetts Commission to end Homelessness, was only a call for a strategy not a strategic plan, Greene said.
‘The plan is an attempt to get different people to work in new ways to end homelessness,’ Greene said.
The country’s financial troubles only exacerbated the problem. Housing is scarce and the state, city and private sector are being pressured to create housing resources to assist the homeless with limited resources, Greene said.’
‘It will be much harder to help in this economic state as middle income people will be working at jobs they wouldn’t normally take, putting downward pressure on the job market,’ he said.’
The state needs an enormous reinvestment in low-income housing because the temporary emergency cots at homeless shelters across the city have become permanent beds and homes for some, Greene said.
‘Shelters are a cost, while housing is an investment,’ Greene said.’
From a health care standpoint, Boston Healthcare for the Homeless clinic site Director Rita Chapman said clinic at Jean Yawkey Place in the South End is being expanded to better accommodate the growing number of homeless people in the city. Recently, the clinic moved into a new facility that is the triple the size of the former Jamaica Plain location.
‘However, resources are the greatest obstacle,’ she said.
Neighborhood Action, Inc. executive director Ron Tibbetts said affordable housing is the greatest issue for his company because the majority of people the Neighborhood Action, Inc provide meals for are homeless.’
‘We have become a people of immediate gratification,’ he said. ‘If a problem such as homelessness hangs around for a while, the public loses interest because there isn’t an immediate solution.’
Tibbets said the psychological effect of waiting in line for basic resources crushes a person’s self worth.
‘It is important to know the people you are serving by name because it gives them an immediate validation that they are human,’ he said. ‘Once you put a name to a face, then it becomes a concern and not an issue.’
Chapman, Greene and Tibbetts all said the best way to resolve the homeless situation is to get involved.’ ‘
‘ ‘Students need to advocate, organize and participate to have their voice heard,’ Greene said.’ ‘
Suffolk University sophomore Judy Sarah said students should want to help the homeless.’
‘It shouldn’t be an obligation to help, we should want to help because homeless people are a part of our community,’ she said.’