The same factors that contribute to urban homelessness, that is, a lack of affordable housing and insufficient income, also lead to rural homelessness. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness Geography of Homeless report, there are approximately 14 homeless people on average for every 10,000 people in rural areas. Perhaps the most distinguishing factor of rural homelessness is the access to services. Many rural homeless assistance services lack the infrastructure to provide care to their homeless population. Limited modes of transportation and the tendency for federal programs to focus on urban areas are contributing reasons for the lack of adequate services for the rural homeless. Rural areas also tend to have higher rates of poverty.
According to the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, homelessness is a real problem in the state, and increasingly includes not only individuals but also families. On any particular day approximately 16,000 Pennsylvanians are known to be homeless. During one school year, school districts around the state provide services to approximately 13,000 homeless children.
The Housing Alliance has also organized the Homeless Providers Network, a subcommittee of service providers and advocates to develop and focus more resources on the growing issue of homelessness.
However, there is no housing agency or homeless shelter in Pike County, PA, making it difficult to count the homeless in that county with any accuracy. In 2011, an informal group mostly consisting of social service workers was formed to address the homeless issue.
Moreover, each year prior to Thanksgiving, the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) along with the National Student Campaign against Hunger and Homelessness set aside National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to bring awareness to these pressing issues. This year NCH marks its 30th anniversary in the long and difficult effort toward ending homelessness and commitment to bring about more substantial initiatives toward that effort. Participation will help build communities and promote greater understanding among friends, peers and co-workers.
No one chooses to be homeless; many might be someone’s neighbors. Addressing the root causes is essential for improving the circumstance and promotes stability in a person’s life. Some of those causes include the growing gap between rich and poor, medical bills, the decrease in affordable housing, decrease in services and social assistance, loss of employment and family break-up.
[Pike County Hands of Hope is a Christ-centered organization dedicated to providing compassion and hope to homeless or near-homeless families and individuals by meeting their basic and urgent needs of food, clothing and shelters. For information or to volunteer for PCHOH call: 570/296-HOPE, or toll free 855/296-HOPE. Email info@PikeCountyHOH.org.]