Tables in many homes on Thursday are expected to overflow with food for a Thanksgiving Day feast. But as the weather turns colder in this holiday season, people are also right to wonder about those who are less fortunate.
The good news is that the number of adults who are homeless has fallen in the United States and in the Kansas City area.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development reports that from its January count, those who are homeless on any given night is down 11 percent since 2007 to 564,708 this year, including a 2 percent drop from last year.
Data from the Homeless Services Coalition of Greater Kansas City shows a 25 percent drop since 2014 to 1,446 homeless persons in 2015. That’s also down 48 percent from a post-Great Recession high of 2,789 in 2011.
But the face of homelessness is changing to families with children and unaccompanied minors. The National Center for Homeless Education this month found that the number of homeless students in America’s public schools is increasing. In the 2013-2014 school year, 1.3 million students were homeless, up 15 percent from the year before.
In Kansas and Missouri the increase in homeless students from the fall of 2011 to the summer of 2014 was even higher.
In Kansas the number jumped 16.5 percent to 10,378. In Missouri the count rose 21.3 percent to 29,784. Kansas City Public Schools in 2014-2015 had 1,824 students who were homeless.
Families with children and unaccompanied minors with no permanent home stay in places like motels, or “couch surf” in the homes of friends or family. The U.S. Department of Education-funded report shows 76 percent of homeless students live in “doubled-up” housing.
Homelessness for children is a growing concern because they are more likely to miss valuable class time and homework, and have the lowest scores on standardized tests. To help, the Kansas City district provides free lunch and transportation, and offers school uniforms, backpacks, school supplies, food and other items. Families are referred to community resources for housing and other assistance.
ReStart Inc. provides emergency shelter and more permanent housing options, including Rosehill Town Homes. Ground was broken in October on the 33-unit complex, which will open to families next year at Admiral Boulevard and Troost Avenue.
Jeff Lee, program director with Hope Faith Ministries, points out that homeless people and families need services to help prevent them from being on the street again. Hope Faith Ministries as a day center for the poor and less fortunate brings together groups and caring people who provide a wealth of assistance.
“We have a great community in Kansas City that loves to care for people,” Lee said.
Evie Craig, president and chief executive officer of reStart, encourages people to look at the holidays as a time to commit to sustainable activities that will benefit the less fortunate.
“We know that there is a real need and a growing need,” Craig said. “Let’s take that and make it our commitment to creating a better future.”
That’s sound advice. No one should endure homelessness, and especially not young people.