Shining a Light on Homelessness
The presence of homeless people in affluent Moore County may have seemed an anomaly at one time. Not anymore.
When the faith-based nonprofit Family Promise (originally known as Sandhills Interfaith Hospitality Network) formed 11 years ago to meet the needs of homeless families, a few Moore Countians argued that the service was not needed. We don’t have homeless people around here, they said.
The skeptics may have been thinking about derelicts living under bridges, on park benches and heating grates on metropolitan streets. They may have been thinking of drug addicts, mentally ill veterans, bag ladies and people for whom rootlessness is more lifestyle than economic condition.
Family Promise leaders were not unsympathetic to those people but concentrated instead on families, in most cases a single mother with one or more children. They were right. In the early years, the program operated at an almost leisurely pace. As economic conditions worsened, business picked up, and today, with an economy in crisis, the nonprofit maintains a long waiting list.
Situation Grows Grimmer
Since those early years, the face of the homeless has taken on aspects extending beyond the factors that initially prompted so many distraught mothers to visit Family Promise. Today’s dismal economy has stricken people whose position in society heretofore has been shielded from such hardship conditions.
If the situation is far grimmer today, there is at least a ray of hope. Moore County, through its planning and community development department, is collaborating with Anson, Richmond and Montgomery counties in a regional approach that includes not only collecting numbers but also pinpointing agencies that can help. The cooperative program, named ARMM for the first letter in the four county names, is working to raise awareness and to direct attention toward alleviation of a problem relatively new to this section of the state.
Moore County is blessed to have several agencies that help the needy, including the homeless. In addition to Family Promise, Friend to Friend provides homes for women and children in domestic violence situations, and the faith-based Coalition for Human Care provides food, clothing and other forms of assistance. These groups keep statistics on clients. Other agencies also help but don’t keep detailed records that include home addresses.
Searching for Solutions
St. Joseph of the Pines has joined the initiative by sponsoring a website featuring pictures of three examples of today’s homeless: the newly evicted one-parent family, a new mother and her baby, and a military veteran.
Rather than camping out in parks and sidewalks, today’s homeless are more inventive. They live in cars, unoccupied houses and tents in heavily wooded areas. They seek out warm places open to the public and wash up in restrooms at retail businesses, struggling to stay clean while applying for jobs and keeping children in school. Sometimes they hide their homeless status.
Our community is grateful that organizations and individuals are working so diligently to identify the homeless and to search for solutions.
It’s time for all of us to become part of the solution. After all, that homeless family may be former neighbors.
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