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An Update on One Homeless Boy

Susan Notes:

Five-and-a half years ago I posted an item by the Dayton Daily News about a homeless family. I was especially moved by Jamahl, the 12-year-old boy trying to protect his books from the rain. Jamahl recently wrote me a note. He thanked me for "noticing" his family's situation. When I asked, Jamahl said his mother is doing fine but his brother has "become a statistic."

Jamahl graduated from high school, second in his class, and has moved to California to go to college:

I'll be attending San Diego City College and then transffering to the University of California, San Diego, majoring in business and music.

A recent news item mentioned that every night in New York City there are 17,000 homeless children. And our Congress recently cut $3.8 billion from the housing budget. Someone on Twitter recently noted, "The USA should invade the USA and win the hearts and minds of the population by building roads, bridges and putting locals to work." And making sure children have a roof over their heads. Putting locals to work--with a living wage-- would do it. It is shameful that 17,000 children in New York City and thousands and thousands across the country have no place to call home.

Kudos and all good wishes to Jamahl.

Kudos again to the Dayton Daily News for the strong editorial accompanying this story from five years ago.

Families become fastest-growing segment of homeless population

By Margo Rutledge Kissell
Dayton Daily News

DAYTON -- Ronica Sims, 47, of Dayton sat on a bench outside St. Vincent Hotel, waiting for the doors to open to get a bed for the night.

Her two sons, 16 and 12, were close by, one hiding his school books under his shirt to protect them from raindrops.

Wednesday was the family's first night at the shelter, the result of Sims' inability to come up with this month's rent.

She said her purse had been stolen and when she tried to pay part of the rent, "the landlord wasn't hearing of it because I'm often playing catch-up."

It's been a challenge trying to stretch her $899 disability check to cover the $848 rent, electric and water bills and buy food, she said.

Asked if she thought her shelter stay would be temporary, she responded, "We can hope." Then she added, "The bottom line to it is, it's not temporary. You know, people are going through this all the time."

Sims and her sons are part of the largest and fastest-growing segment of the local homeless population: families.

Today St. Vincent Hotel becomes a 24-hour shelter for families to address that need. It will also continue its role as an emergency, overnight shelter for single adults.

The change was one of several a task force recommended at the area's shelters.

Editorial: Most homeless are families with kids

By the Dayton Daily News

The following is an edited excerpt from a report by the Homeless Solutions Team work group chaired by the University of Dayton's Brother Ray Fitz:

At its core, homelessness is a poverty issue. People living in poverty often face difficult, if not impossible, choices between housing, health care, food, child care, transportation and other living expenses.

In 2004, more than 6,000 people experienced homelessness in Montgomery County:

  • 61 percent were families with children.

  • 20 percent were single males (age 25 or older).

  • 7 percent were single females (ages 25 or older).

  • 7 percent were single young adults (ages 18-24).

  • 5 percent were unaccompanied minors.

  • Families

    There were more than 1,100 families entered into the Homeless Management Information System during 2004.

    Approximately half were identified as being homeless and eligible for programmatic shelter but were never sheltered due to a lack of beds.

    Nearly two-thirds of the families are headed by an older adult (age 25 or older), with just over one-third headed by young adults (ages 18-24).

    Sixty-six percent of older adults in families had a high school diploma, GED or better, compared with only 42 percent of younger adults in families.

    For approximately 20 percent to 30 percent of the families, homelessness is strictly an economic issue.

    The point-in-time count in January 2005 identified 89 families in shelters.

    Single adults (age 25 and older)

    There were more than 1,600 unaccompanied homeless adults age 25 and older entered into the homeless information system during 2004. This group is predominantly male (76 percent). Close to three-fourths (73 percent) of homeless single adults have their high school diploma, a GED or better.

    An estimated 100-150 homeless adults are chronically homeless. The point-in-time count in January 2005 identified 339 unaccompanied adults ages 18 or older.

    Single young adults (ages 18-24)

    There were close to 500 young adults who experienced homelessness in 2004. Forty-six percent had a high school diploma, GED or better. With the exception of some of the 18-year-olds who were sheltered at Daybreak, the majority of this age group receives shelter and services as part of the adult system. Too old for the youth system, these young adults have unique developmental needs and can too easily become acculturated into a culture of homelessness in the adult system.

    Unaccompanied minors

    Almost 300 unaccompanied minors were sheltered in 2004. The vast majority are ages 14-17. The unaccompanied minors who come into contact with the homeless system are evenly split between males and females. These youth are runaways or throwaways, and many are also involved with the child welfare system.

    — Susan Ohanian


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