The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) defines a chronically homeless person as someone who has been continuously homeless for over one year. In 2009 it was estimated that 23% of homeless Americans fell under this category. While current numbers have dipped to 12-15%, the number of homeless Americans, overall, has increased.
Under 18 yrs old
18 to 20 yrs old
21 to 30 yrs old
31 to 50 yrs old
51 to 61 yrs old
62 to 64 yrs old
Over 65 yrs old
According to the 2011 Montana Homeless Survey, over 800 people sought services for homelessness last year in Kalipsell. The previous year's survey registered 722, so the numbers went up. And this only represents those individuals who took the time to participate in the survey because many many people did not respond or their information was too incomplete to use. I did some research and the population of Kalispell is just under 20,000. This means that close to 4 percent of the population was classified as homeless.
Or, another way to examine the situation is: 1 out of every 25 people in Kalispell, statistically speaking, was homeless. This is not an epidemic limited to New York or Los Angeles. This is Kalispell. Montana. The last great place? Not for everyone.
Do you know 25 people? Do you have 25 friends or family members in Kalispell? For so many of us the issue of homelessness is disconnected from our daily life because it seems like a foreign issue or a reality that would never touch us here in the Valley. Homelessness has become the elephant in the living room. But how do we combat a condition that ensnares people in cycles? We need solutions based in longevity and sustainability. Quick-fixes and aid without a long-term plan will only slap a bandage on a gaping wound. If homelessness can be thought of as a disease, then what remedies can be provided?
Kalispell must be willing to ensure housing within reasonable price ranges. Education is another piece of this puzzle that can lead to jobs and careers that provide living-wage opportunities. When an individual has the chance to acquire the appropriate tools, then he or she can begin to construct a life that transcends living hand-to-mouth. Employers must be willing to take a chance by hiring those who have either escaped the talons of poverty or are doing their best to scale that mountain.
This is not a partisan problem or a dilemma relegated to politics. This is a human problem and I believe the people of Kalispell can help in numerous ways.
…which will be the next topic.