Focus on Homelessness

Social Responsibility and Justice Team Special Feature

It’s hard to miss the rising population of homeless people in our country, whether you never leave Durango or travel throughout the nation. A recent study by the National Alliance to End Homelessness reports the following facts:

  • Homelessness has been on the rise since 2017, experiencing an overall increase of 6 percent.
  • In 2022, counts of individuals (421,392 people) and chronically homeless individuals (127,768) reached record highs in the history of data collection.
  • Unsheltered rates are also trending upward, impacting most racial, ethnic, and gender subgroups.
  • Homeless services systems continued to expand the availability of both temporary and permanent beds in 2022, but these resources still fall short of reaching everyone in need.
  • Homelessness rose by a modest 0.3 percent from 2020 to 2022, a period marked by both pandemic-related economic disruptions and robust investments of federal resources into human services.

So, who are these homeless people?  The Alliance offers the following demographic information:

  • 22 percent are chronically homeless individuals (or people with disabilities who have experienced long-term or repeated incidents of homelessness).
  • 6 percent are veterans (distinguished due to their service to the country).
  • 5 percent are unaccompanied youth under 25 (considered vulnerable due to their age).

If you find these numbers disgraceful, you’re not alone. Marilyn Leftwich, who leads the UUFD’s Basic Needs Team, recently took part in an Interfaith Focus Group led by NINA (Neighbors in Need Alliance). The focus group agreed on two primary issues.  First, the increased visibility of our unhoused neighbors is a direct result of lack of available, affordable housing.  Second, due to the complexity of the housing issue, there are some misinformed judgements within the community about how one becomes unhoused or housing insecure, which can be cruel and dismissive.

Local religious congregations who take part in the Interfaith Alliance feel siloed in their efforts to provide services and overwhelmed by the scope of the need. Yet, they continue to move forward with compiling resource lists, providing educational presentations, providing advocacy for the unhoused, developing and supporting a consistent and reliable location for care, and offering space, and even land, for temporary and/or permanent solutions.

Marilyn suggests that we host a presentation at UUFD about homelessness/unhoused issues in LaPlata County this fall.  Stay tuned for more information and contact Marilyn if you’re interested in helping with the Basic Needs Team.