Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week: - (11/13/2017)
With Thanksgiving soon to be upon us, a time spent counting ones blessings, it seems a poignant time to acknowledge the issue of homelessness in our community. November 11-19 is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week, a week of action raising awareness for this vital issue. In 2015, a canvas organized by the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition counted 302 homeless individuals in Broome County, 40 of whom were living without shelter. That same year, more than 1,000 people in the Southern Tier experienced homelessness at some point (Southern Tier Homeless Coalition, 2015).
For women and children, homelessness and domestic violence are often interconnected. Approximately 50% of all women who are homeless report that domestic violence was the cause of their homelessness (The National Center on Family Homelessness, 2013). Among women with children who are homeless, 80% had previously experienced domestic violence (National Center for Children in Poverty, 2009).
Unfortunately, noise ordinance/lockdown laws in the city of Binghamton only exacerbated this problem. Disturbances that require police intervention, 21% of which were related to domestic violence in 2014, were cited and given penalty points under the law. Repeated incidents led to eviction, even when the victim was blameless in the incident. This disproportionately impacted poor women and women of color, who had fewer options if they were evicted, and made it more difficult for them to secure future housing. Fortunately, a NYS Supreme Court ruled noise ordinance laws unconstitutional earlier this year.
Since 1979, Rise (SOS Shelter) has operated Broome County's only domestic violence shelter. Shelters such as ours offer domestic violence victims with few resources an alternative to homelessness, providing safe shelter, food, clothing, toiletries, counseling, advocacy, and a vital connection to community resources. Nationwide, survivors have reported that if a domestic violence shelter did not exist, the consequences for them would be dire and could include homelessness, serious losses including loss of children, actions taken in desperation, continued abuse, or death (Lyon et al., 2008).
Two of the most pressing concerns among individuals who are planning to or recently left their abusers are the need for safe housing and economic resources (Clough et al., 2014). Rise provides temporary, safe shelter for up to 60 days and assists in finding permanent housing for clients. Rise staff also offer support and transport to the Broome County Department of Social Services for clients who are eligible for financial assistance, provide referrals to other agencies providing community resources, and offers financial counseling and budgeting classes.
Rise's shelter manager also serves on the Southern Tier Homeless Coalition, a collaborative group of local non-profits which provides solutions to homeless in the community.
The other aspect of Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is food insecurity. Rise provides healthy, nutritious meals for its residents. Each resident is assigned a day to help staff design a dinner menu and cook for other residents, offering them the chance to learn how to cook nutritious foods for their families. Rise also connects residents in need to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
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