Monday, January 25, 2010

Dangers of Hypothermia for the Homeless

“The National Coalition for the Homeless has just released its report, Winter Homeless Services: Bringing Our Neighbors in from the Cold, to raise awareness of the dangers and often fatal consequences of hypothermia on people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Seven-hundred people experiencing or at-risk of homelessness are killed from hypothermia annually in the United States. Forty-four percent of the nation’s homeless are unsheltered. From the urban streets of our populated cities to the remote back-country of rural America, hypothermia - or subnormal temperature in the body - remains a leading, critical and preventable cause of injury and death among those experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”

The report concludes that “The Homeless service providers and governments have the responsibility to protect their homeless citizens through state- and city-wide winter plans and increased shelter availability. An exemplary winter shelter would be open 24 hours each day between October 1 and April 30, regardless of temperature, as well as any other days during the year when the temperature falls below 40o F. It would also admit all homeless people, regardless of sobriety status or past bans, unless they are violent or causing an extreme disturbance.”

Our resident families, thank heavens, are not at risk for hypothermia. They live in their own apartments. But, like most cities, our emergency shelter providers struggle to meet the need when the weather turns cold. The newly formed Homelessness Task Force is tackling similar issues for Kansas City.

- Laura Gray

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Another Family's Success Story

The end of last year marked the "graduation" of several families to permanent homes. Our Senior Director of Programming and Operations, Jeannine Short, shared one of those success stories with me this morning.

Jimi and her four children entered our program in March 2008 as a result of prolonged homelessness. Prior to entering the program, the family was living doubled up with relatives. However, when things became too crowded and chaotic, she and her children were asked to leave. With no income, a limited and sporadic employment history and several housing evictions, she was forced to move her family into a shelter.

Motivated by desperation, Jimi made application to Community LINC and was accepted into the program. Upon entering, she immediately set about the task of breaking old patterns, establishing new patterns, learning new skills and positioning herself to adequately provide stable housing and a bright future for her children. She obtained employment at Westin Crown Center, enrolled in Penn Valley’s Business Administration program and retired approximately $3500 in old debt.

More than a year later, Jimi has seen first-hand what diligence and consistency can accomplish. Not only has she successfully completed our program, but she remains employed full-time with benefits, is continuing to work on her college degree, has retired all housing-related debts, and has transitioned to permanent housing.

- Laura Gray