Homelessness wasn’t something we talked about much. There was a small park downtown where we’d see someone sleeping on a bench, or carrying around lots of extra bags, but this was a rare sight. At least, it seemed like that.
Living in Washington, D.C. now, I see poverty all around me. In the man asking for change on the corner. In the women sleeping on the floor at the Metro station because they have nowhere else to go. In the family that’s wearing the same clothes they wore yesterday because they haven’t yet found a place to lay their heads.
Surely, homelessness is a big city problem, right?
Last week, my father sent me an article reporting that homelessness in Wichita had increased 65 percent since the recession began. Sixty. Five. Percent.
That means, on any given night, there are something like 600 people without homes in this small city in the heartland of America. A dozen of them died on the streets last year.
I wept, seeing these numbers, because Wichita is “home” for me. Behind each of these numbers is a man, woman, or child who lives there, but has no home.
What’s more, I know these numbers are part of a horrifying national trend. There are so many more homeless people in Wichita because there are so many more people experiencing homelessness everywhere. Homelessness is not just a big city issue. It’s not just an issue on the coasts. It is everywhere.
And this is unacceptable, given that we know how to both prevent and end it. We lack not the solutions, but the political will to make sure all people are housed in these United States.
-Whitney Gent, Development & Communications Director