One of the most underpublicized issues facing the nation today is the growing rate of homelessness – and it’s one that hits close to home.
According to data released earlier this year by the Central Michigan University sociology, anthropology and social work department, there are 151 known homeless people in Isabella County.
In fact, the poverty rate in Isabella County, 33.8 percent, is the highest in Michigan.
Those in power, including those in the media, typically don’t provide a lot of coverage on this issue, and ultimately, this leads to a lack of awareness and the continuation of stereotypes that these people are “bums, drug addicts or lazy.”
It’s this stigma that hinders a resolution. By recognizing that anyone is susceptible to poverty in an increasingly competitive economy, mindsets toward the homeless can change.
In fact, many, if not most, of these people are hardworking people who are just unable to catch a break in the midst of growing poverty rates and a competitive job market.
And to everyday citizens, including politicians, this population is largely ignored.
In Mount Pleasant, for instance, there are no homeless shelters. Efforts last year to create one ultimately failed from a lack of financial support. The nearest shelters are in Weidman and Alma – more than 10 miles from downtown.
One of the few resources available in town is the Isabella Community Soup Kitchen, which began from a CMU class project in the early ‘90s. While every effort helps, soup alone doesn’t provide subsistence.
There is a growing population of people who need awareness, and above all, support – whether through charity or governmental assistance.
While homelessness doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with drug abuse, it can sometimes be a factor. It’s important to regulate state and federal assistance, so those who need it can receive it and those who abuse the system can be cut off.
It’s also important not to use those few who do abuse the system asva reason to destroy our social safety net. Federal programs including unemployment insurance and food stamps keep our neediest above water and even provide some stimulus for the economy. It’s the least the wealthiest nation on Earth could do for its neediest citizens. Those who wish to cut deep into the safety net should remember that.
In a world that’s stuck in a gloomy economic state, the issue of homelessness isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And with Thanksgiving and Christmas around the corner, this issue hits home even harder.
So be aware and take action – homelessness can happen to anyone, and a lending hand can go a long way.