To the point week of 9-22-11

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WE ALL KNOW THAT the state of our economy today is causing many problems for many people; but I was really surprised recently with a report that shows statistics on homeless families.

Being “homeless” is something that evokes images of people living on the street or under a highway overpass. It makes us feel badly for the homeless people, but we know that they all live in large cities, certainly not in some place like Switzerland County.

If you think the problem of homeless people is a “big city” problem – you’re very wrong.

All around our country, and all around our county, there are people and there are families who are classified as homeless. They may not be living under a bridge; but they don’t have a stable place to go each night.

Recent statistics released show that there were 2,833 homeless families in the state of Indiana in 2009; which is an increase of 15-percent over the year before.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness shares some startling statistics:

– There are 643,067 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.

– Of that number, 238,110 are people in families, and

– 404,957 are individuals.

– 17-percent of the homeless population is considered “chronically homeless,” and

– 12-percent of the homeless population, 67,000 total, are veterans.

Homeless families are similar to other poor families.

Typically, families become homeless as a result of some unforeseen financial crisis – a medical emergency, a car accident, a death in the family – that prevents them from being able to hold on to housing.

Most homeless families are able to bounce back from homelessness quickly, with relatively little public assistance. Usually, homeless families require rent assistance, housing placement services, job assistance, and other short-term, one-time services before being able to return to independence and stability.

Young people often become homeless due to family conflict, including divorce, neglect, or abuse. A large majority of young people experience short-term homelessness, returning back home or to family/friends. A small minority – an estimated 50,000 youth – experience long-term homelessness.

Youth homelessness presents a particular challenge for several reasons, including the fact that there is very little definitive data on the population, as this group often doesn’t interact with standard homeless assistance programs or government agencies. Moreover, the solutions that have been identified for homelessness in general are often not applicable to minors (who are, for example, ineligible to rent an apartment). These special challenges mean that solutions to youth homelessness require targeted innovation.

For many city officials, community leaders, and even direct service providers, it often seems that placing homeless people in shelters is the most inexpensive way to meet the basic needs of people experiencing homelessness; some may even believe that shelters are an ideal solution.

Research, however, has shown something surprisingly different.

The cost of homelessness can be quite high. Hospitalization, medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention, and emergency shelter expenses can add up quickly, making homelessness surprisingly expensive for municipalities and taxpayers.

People experiencing homelessness are more likely to access the most costly health care services.

According to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine, homeless people spent an average of four days longer per hospital visit than comparable non-homeless people. This extra cost, approximately $2,414 per hospitalization, is attributable to homelessness.

Emergency shelter is a costly alternative to permanent housing. While it is sometimes necessary for short-term crises, too often it serves as long-term housing. The cost of an emergency shelter bed funded by HUD’s Emergency Shelter Grants program is approximately $8,067 more than the average annual cost of a federal housing subsidy (Section 8 Housing Certificate). A recent HUD study found that the cost of providing emergency shelter to families is generally as much or more than the cost of placing them in transitional or permanent housing.

Why do I want to share this with you? Because it’s important. We need to understand that this isn’t something that’s a “big city” thing. We need to be aware of what’s going on around us, and we need to be ready to step in and help when we see our friends and neighbors in trouble. With the economy in the situation that it is, and with unemployment rising and not coming down anytime soon, more and more communities like Switzerland County are going to be faced with the challenge of trying to help our community members who find themselves in trouble.

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I know she won’t read this, so I’m confident that you can help me out.

On Saturday, October 1st, my wife, Jacquita, will celebrate her 50th birthday. For those who know her, you know that she has dedicated her life to educating your children. She is firmly entrenched in teaching elementary children and giving them a good start at having a great life.

As her husband, I believe that she is one outstanding teacher, and I can tell you that she loves the kids she teaches with all of her heart. Year after year she works tirelessly at her craft; and most nights she doesn’t gather her papers to head home until after 5 p.m. – only to spend the majority of the night grading papers and creating lesson plans.

It’s popular today to beat on bad teachers; but I’m married to one incredible teacher.

That said: On Friday, September 30th, I need your help in doing something special for her birthday. At the end of the school day that day; I will be surprising her with some cake and punch in the cafeteria of Jefferson-Craig.

Here’s where you come in: If you had my wife as a teacher; or if you had her in drama club; or if your child had her as a teacher; I’d like to invite you to come and surprise her and honor her for her birthday. I can think of no greater gift for her than for her to be surrounded by her past and current students.

If you can come and celebrate with her, you are very welcome.

Remember: It’s a surprise!

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Last week I wrote in this column about home remedies, and I asked if any of you had something that you have relied on.

Lisa Sittloh of Lewis Drive sent me this tip about honey:

Hey Pat, A few weeks ago I traveled to Brookville Lake with friends. Late into the night my friend Barb Anderson and I were talking about my son, Mahlon, having Asthma and I told her that years ago when he was a child a doctor once told me to give him a teaspoon of honey to ward off an attack and to also help with allergies. Barb told me she has been taking honey for years now, she said it has to be local honey to work! I don’t have Asthma but after looking at Barb who is 63 years old, in great health. She owns the Anderson Riviera Inn in Rising Sun, travels, lots of energy! So I thought I would give it a try . I started drinking it in my tea every morning, it has been 3 weeks and I can honestly say I feel better, I have not had a cold like everyone else and I have more energy! So run out and get some local honey !! It works.