“We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty. We must start in our own homes to remedy this kind of poverty.”
“Poverty is not an accident, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”
The holiday season is the time of year we celebrate family and new beginnings – a new year filled with hope. It is a time when families come together or are reunited, and a sense of peace and harmony is scattered throughout the community. However, for some people and even some families, being homeless is a hard-cold blow of desperation and depression. Homelessness in the Roanoke Valley is decreasing according to officials at several local shelters. Additionally, families led by single mothers are increasing at an alarming rate. They are our silent citizens, living in shelters, cheap hotels and cars just to get through another day.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on any given night nearly 20 percent of the homeless population had serious mental illness or conditions related to chronic substance abuse. A family with a full-time worker making minimum wage could not afford fair market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the U.S. Also, a renter earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour would need to work 90 hours per week to afford a one-bedroom rental home at the fair market rent and 112 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom. The need to increase the federal minimum wage in this country is long overdue.
Further, the number of shelters in our area should be increased to accommodate the homeless. We need to provide additional mental health assistance to our citizens as we see them wandering our streets in despair. This is the season of giving. I hope we all have a chance to reflect on the true essence of this time of year and actively participate in its meaning.