Community panel discusses homelessness
Chelsey Fattal | Thursday, March 27, 2014
Emily Perry Sims, director of events at the Center for the Homeless, put poverty into perspective at Saint Mary’s community panel “Homelessness: Together We Can Make a Difference” in Madeleva Hall on Thursday.
Students and staff spent their evening listening to a discussion sponsored by the Saint Mary’s College social work department.
“It can happen to anyone,” she said. “People fall through the cracks, but more people are born in the cracks.”
The discussion featured panelists with experience working with or leading organizations directed at prevention of homelessness.
The seven panelists were guests from the Center for the Homeless, Salvation Army, YWCA, St. Margaret’s House, Youth Services Bureau and the Common Council in South Bend.
Since drug abuse, mental illness and gender inequality are common contributors to homelessness, the panel represented organizations that help people overcome these challenges.
Bonnie Stryker, director of the Youth Services Bureau, said self-sufficiency in St. Joseph County is defined as a full-time job with an hourly wage of at least $13.11.
“In 2007, 23.3 percent of families in St. Joseph County were in poverty,” Stryker said. “I am sure this number has increased now that we are in a recession.”
One member of Hope Ministries named Rose said the organization helps her improve her education, grow closer to God and take care of her 10-month-old daughter, who also resides at Hope Ministries.
“It’s my home,” she said of the organization. “It’s my family. They made me feel welcome and accepted me and my daughter from the moment we arrived.”
Another guest from Hope Ministries, who identified herself as May, shared her story of homelessness. Unlike some stereotypes of the homeless, she said she did not find herself on the streets because of alcoholism or drug abuse. Her medical condition caused her to lose her job, she said.
President of the South Bend Common Council Oliver Davis said he plans to raise awareness and initiative on the behalf of homeless awareness.
“[You] don’t have to have a great degree to help with homelessness, you just need a willing heart,” she said.