37 percent of area homeless are homeless for the first time

Staff Report

According to the 23rd annual Snapshot Survey conducted in October by the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), about one in three (34 percent) people who ask for help on any given day at AGRM Missions across the country say they’re homeless for the very first time — an alarming statistic that reflects the state of our economy and ability of people to cope with their situations.

Specifically, at Rockford Rescue Mission, the number of guests experiencing homelessness for the first time is even higher, at 37 percent.

We count it a blessing to be able to provide much-needed assistance to these struggling individuals and families,” said the mission’s executive director, Sherry Pitney. “The generosity of our community means we have the resources to offer practical help and real hope all year long and especially during the holidays, a time of year that can be very difficult for people who are homeless or on any rung of the poverty ladder.”

The survey, conducted among approximately 19,000 people served at more than 100 AGRM organizations, including Rockford Rescue Mission, provides a clear picture of who is seeking assistance from rescue missions. One statistic that frames the situation is that nationally 83 percent of the participants reported being homeless, as opposed to having accommodations elsewhere but seeking food, clothing or other aid at a mission. Locally, 85 percent of those surveyed defined themselves as homeless.

For many people in the midst of homelessness, it is a long-term problem. Of those across North America who reported they were homeless, 20 percent (35 percent locally) had been in their situations six months to a year. The study also showed the most prevalent homeless population is single individuals (81 percent of the total surveyed, and 89 percent at Rockford Rescue Mission).

The Snapshot Survey revealed as well that one in four people — both nationally and locally — who seek aid at rescue missions have experienced physical violence within the past year. This appears to be the beginning of a very troubling trend that AGRM has been following in recent years.

The AGRM’s findings are certainly alarming, but are in no way surprising,” Pitney said. “We see evidence every day of the growing number of people who are homeless for the first time, who are experiencing homelessness for longer periods of time and who are impacted by some form of domestic violence in their lives. We’re so grateful for the business, church and individual partnerships and financial support that enables us to enhance our services to meet the growing and changing needs of our community.”

Donations to the Rockford Rescue Mission can be made online, 24 hours a day, at www.rockfordrescuemission.org.

From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue

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