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Monday, July 28, 2014

Help should begin with the individual

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Someone will surely take me to task for the following statement but I don't fully understand why officials report increased numbers of homeless in this country. A new report out this week says that homelessness and hunger are actually growing in this country. Pardon my cynicism, I don't believe it.

St. Louis leads the nation in unmet requests for emergency food assistance. It also ranks near the top of the survey for unmet emergency housing as well. For starters, that speaks very poorly of St. Louis. But with some experience in meeting the needs of the low income, I strongly question these new numbers.

If there are people hungry in this nation then perhaps we need to examine more closely the pipeline that is designed to provide this essential need. Believe me, it's not a lack of programs and it's not a lack of funding. I can pinpoint dozens (literally) of programs in our region that are designed to fill the needs of the poor.

Here's the problem in my opinion. A full third of all the homeless population are in that position because of substance abuse. Substance abuse is a self-inflicted issue. It makes you wonder what society's obligation should be to those who put themselves in this tragic position to begin with. The federal government pumped in an additional $28 million this year to bring the total for emergency needs to $1.1 billion this year. That doesn't include the billions already budgeted for housing and food assistance in the federal budget.

I'll take the heat but I believe that some within the assistance community make false claims of need to assure their continued funding and support from the private sector. That doesn't mean there are not those in need. It simply means that some in need look to the government to fulfill their basics of life instead of entering the workforce or leaving their substance abuse behind.

Officials with these programs are calling for more funding for housing, job training and substance abuse treatment. They may be right. But at some point, those in need must begin to help themselves and quit looking for that daily handout.



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