Roofs over their heads: Reducing homelessness remains significant issue in Alabama
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jan 29, 2013 | 2739 views |  0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Old abandoned building in Anniston where homeless people have occupied from time to time. (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star)
Old abandoned building in Anniston where homeless people have occupied from time to time. (Photo by Bill Wilson / The Anniston Star)
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It’s 2013, and the deadline for President Barack Obama’s plan to end veterans and chronic homelessness in the United States by 2015 — called project “Opening Doors” — is fast approaching. The task is daunting. It may take longer than the president wants.

Yet, efforts to reduce the rate of homelessness in America aren’t doomed to failure. In some areas, progress is being made. Our hope is that here in Anniston, where agencies this week have tried to account for the area’s homeless population, the results will show a continued ebb of improvement.

The reasons are obvious. Homelessness is good for no one: not the homeless, not their families, and not the cities in which they live. Say what you will about the need to find employment for the downtrodden; in strictly a biblical sense, no one — not the able or the infirm — should be forced to live in vacant buildings or the back seat of their car.

Humans deserve better than that.

Last year, Alabama showed signs of progress. Statistics from the Department of Housing and Urban Development show the state with 5,209 homeless in 2012 — a slight decline of 349 from the year before, a drop of 6.3 percent. (There were more than 633,000 documented homeless in the United States last year, HUD says.)

Interestingly, Alabama’s homeless figures dropped across the board between 2011 and 2012. Not only did the overall number decrease, so, too, did the number of homeless military veterans and the number of chronically homeless.

Those figures place the state largely in line with the progress seen across the nation. Overall, homeless numbers are dropping slowly while efforts to reduce the amount of U.S. homeless veterans and chronically homeless are having a significant impact.

Calhoun County, with its array of small cities and numerous school systems, is a microcosm of America. Here, homelessness is an issue. For those unaware of the severity of the area’s homelessness, consider this fact: Last year, the Calhoun County School System had 235 students who were homeless; now that number has been reduced to 115, a system official told The Star. (Nearly 80 were displaced because of the April 2011 tornadoes.)

We applaud the work of agencies and individuals who assist those without a permanent place to live. Put simply, their work makes a difference.
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