Rockford Rescue Mission shares results of survey
The economy may be on the upswing, but Rockford Rescue Mission, 715 W. State St., and dozens of other similar organizations across North America see the recession’s lingering effects daily.
Thirty-five percent of those who ask for help on a given day say they’re homeless for the first time (a slight drop from 2010), according to the 22nd Annual Snapshot Survey, conducted this October by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM).
Of the currently homeless, 31 percent say they’ve been homeless fewer than three months, and 21 percent say they haven’t had a home for three to six months.
Of the people Rockford Rescue Mission serves, 36 percent reported being homeless for the first time, including 40 percent who had experienced homelessness for three months or fewer, and 28 percent who hadn’t had a home for three to six months.
“Dire financial situations can lead to a multitude of issues for individuals and families, and we’re equipped to help them,” said Sherry Pitney, executive director of Rockford Rescue Mission, an AGRM member organization that participated in the survey. “We offer hope and practical help daily, whether people need a few living essentials or are in desperate need of shelter.”
Rescue missions’ outreach includes some (17 percent of those who seek aid) who classify themselves as not currently homeless. At Rockford Rescue Mission, 10 percent of those served define themselves as not homeless. Whether homeless or not, many (80 percent in North America and 83 percent locally) say they prefer a mission with a spiritual emphasis.
“The people we meet at the mission are experiencing the greatest depths of despair because they’ve lost their jobs and self-esteem,” Pitney said. “They’ve made bad choices and are riddled with guilt and sorrow. Knowing we believe in them helps validate their significance.”
The most prevalent homeless population is single individuals (86 percent of the total surveyed, and 89 percent of people surveyed at Rockford Rescue Mission). The North American statistics also show that women with children are the most common family unit to visit missions for help, representing 52 percent of total families and 6 percent locally.
In addition, missions saw an increasing number of couples (20 percent of families, a jump from 12 percent in 2010), and men with children (12 percent of families, compared to 9 percent last year) come for help. Fewer intact families (17 percent versus 22 percent a year ago) sought mission services. At Rockford Rescue Mission, couples represented 3 percent of families served, intact families accounted for 1 percent, and men with children represented 1 percent of families who received help.
Another notable trend on the survey was increased reported violence against homeless individuals. In the past year among those who visited rescue missions across North America, these reports have increased 6 percent to 21 percent; among those served at Rockford Rescue Mission, they have increased to 26 percent.
The Snapshot Survey provided an overview of the demographics of those in need as well. Sixty-four percent of rescue mission clients are 36- to 65-year-olds, with the young (younger than 18) and the old (older than 65) being the least likely to receive help at these organizations. Men are more likely to be at a rescue mission (74 percent) than women (26 percent). Fourteen percent of those served at rescue missions are veterans. Most people seeking help are white (50 percent) or black (34 percent); 9 percent are Hispanic. Thirty percent struggle with mental illness.
Locally, the Rockford Rescue Mission sees 26- to 65-year-olds most often, and its clients are 64 percent men and 36 percent women. Veterans account for 13 percent of the people the organization helps. Those served are 53 percent Caucasian, 36 percent African-American and 5 percent Hispanic. Clients include some 40 percent who face mental illness.
The Annual Snapshot Survey, completed in October 2011 by almost 19,000 individuals at 114 gospel rescue missions in North America, provides a valuable snapshot of those seeking assistance from rescue missions.
For more about the Rockford Rescue Mission, call (815) 965-5332 or visit www.rockfordrescuemission.org.
From the Dec. 7-13, 2011, issue
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