More are Homeless in County
The ranks of the homeless in Moore County climbed to 128 in December.
That's a minimum figure, because tracking the homeless is a difficult and delicate process, according to Tim Emmert, community development planner with the Moore County Department of Planning. He said that "is a really big number" for Moore County.
"It's bigger than any of us expected," Emmert said.
The Advisory Council on Homelessness collected the figures in its initial monthly count in December, but council members admit that not all agencies and nonprofits that work with the homeless were able to participate in the count. They said it is possible the number may include some duplications, but they fear that any duplications are far outweighed by an under-count from a variety of sources.
The December total is only four individuals greater than the November number, but Emmert says the comparison is sharper than it appears because of an error in the calculations of one agency participating in the November count, which should have been much lower than reported.
The result is a sobering reminder that the economic doldrums are having a profound effect on the county.
What troubles Emmert and other council members is the knowledge that these statistics just cover those individuals able and willing to visit agencies that provide assistance to the needy.
"Lots of homeless people are not making it to service agencies," Emmert said. "Many can't get to Carthage from Aberdeen and Robbins to ask for help. These folks are not well networked."
There are several reasons the homeless may not seek help from public agencies and nonprofits. Some may be too embarrassed to ask for help. Others have problems, such as criminal records or drug addiction, and fear law enforcement involvement. Others may fear that social workers will remove their children because of neglect -- though county Social Services Director John Benton said that such action is taken only as a last resort in cases of homelessness.
Just how many people are homeless?
"It's a classic question," Emmert said.
Emmert said about half of the 128 are children. The one good factor in that number is the presence of Family Promise of Moore County, the nonprofit agency that works with local faith-based congregations to care for homeless families.
Family Promise houses families in facilities owned by congregations, while efforts are made to help the family find permanent housing and, in some cases, employment.
Susan Bellew, executive director of Family Promise, said the program stays at capacity level all the time and as soon as a home is found for one family, another family moves in. She maintains a perpetual waiting list these days.
"Jobs are hard to find," she said. "It really comes down to jobs and affordable housing."
Not every homeless family has a jobless head of household, according to Bellew. Some have low-paying jobs, at the $6.55 an hour minimum wage, that offer no more than 30 hours a week with no benefits. At that wage level, a working parent can easily become homeless, especially if there is illness or other problems.
Family Promise has been hurt by economic cutbacks as have all other nonprofits working with the needy. Bellew says that Wheels to Work, an auxiliary service, has not received a single donated vehicle in the new year. Wheels to Work accepts donated cars and distributes them, at minimum cost, to eligible individuals who need transportation in order to work. Donation of old cars is tax-deductible.
The nonprofit is in need of more congregations and more volunteers from those congregations who are willing to stay overnight with families during their stays in church or synagogue facilities. At present, Family Promise has 11 host congregations and seven support congregations. This limits the number of families accommodated at any one time.
About 50 of the 128 homeless people are being housed through Family Promise congregations. At last count, that number included 34 children, 13 women and three men.
That leaves everyone else sleeping in cars, abandoned buildings and woods.
The Moore County Schools reported 17 students who did not have permanent addresses listed in their records.
The remaining homeless people were scattered among multiple agencies that work with the poor and the troubled. North Moore Family Resource Center reported eight, including five children, two women and one man. Sandhills Coalition for Human Care reported seven, including three men, three women and one child. Other agencies and nonprofits reporting homeless clients were Bethany House, Bethesda, Moore County Department of Social Services, the Moore County Veterans Office, and Sandhills Center for Mental Health.
Reports were not received from the Red Cross chapter and Sandhills Community Action Program.
Emmert is continuing to recruit board members for the advisory council, which is scheduled to hold its next meeting in March. The board will work to raise awareness of the problem and find solutions.
Congregations interested in joining the Family Promise program are asked to call Bellew at 944-7149, and anyone willing to help with the advisory board may call Emmert at 947-5010.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
More like this story