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Helping homeless back to sufficiency

Take part in week of educational activities

Our city has many great attributes, many great accomplishments and many people who care. We’re revitalizing downtown, investing in our neighborhoods, attracting businesses and maintaining a great quality of life for residents.

Still, we know that some of our citizens continue to struggle, often because of circumstances beyond their control.

For some, that ongoing struggle means searching to find shelter, safety and warmth.

In 2012, the national Point in Time count documented 558 homeless, sheltered and unsheltered individuals in our community. However, “counting” people who are homeless, living in a car or staying in a friend’s home is extremely difficult. That’s why many communities estimate the number of homeless individuals at 1 percent of the population. So, in Fort Wayne, that’s 2,500 individuals; include all of Allen County, and it could be as high as 3,500 or more.

And while we often think of the typical homeless person as an older man, many children are affected by homelessness as well. Fort Wayne Community Schools serves about 400 students every year who are homeless – living in shelters, their family’s car or on the streets.

Often, these children are in these situations because their families faced overwhelming medical bills, a sudden job loss or a death in the family.

These sobering statistics are the reason the Fort Wayne Area Planning Council on Homelessness is recognizing national Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week this week.

The City of Fort Wayne and United Way are lead partners in the Planning Council, which brings together community organizations including shelters, nonprofits, schools, faith-based organizations, government agencies and private entities to work to address the challenges faced by our homeless neighbors.

There are no easy answers, of course, but our city is filled with creative thinkers and hard workers who are focused on finding solutions to some of the most complicated problems.

This week of education is an opportunity for each of us to learn more about our community and how we might assist those whose lives are so challenging.

The week is filled with ways we can contribute. One of my favorites is “Skip a Lunch, Feed a Bunch.”

On Tuesday, we’re encouraging everyone to take the $5 they may have spent on a typical lunch and instead donate the money to the Rescue Mission.

Just put the $5 in an envelope and drop it by or mail it to the mission at 301 W. Superior St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.

That small amount can feed three people lunch at the mission.

Another great opportunity is to attend the showing of the HBO documentary “American Winter,” which will be shown at 6:30 p.m. Friday in the University of Saint Francis north campus building on Spring Street (the former Abundant Life Church).

This is a powerful documentary focusing on families in our country who have faced homelessness. Afterward, there will be an opportunity to discuss the film and learn about ways you can help address homelessness.

I hope you take advantage of these opportunities to help tackle our homelessness issues.

We’re indeed a remarkable community, but we’re only as strong as the most desperate of our citizens. Together, we can work to remove the obstacles standing in the way of our homeless citizens and help them gain self-sufficiency.

Tom Henry is mayor of Fort Wayne. He wrote this for The Journal Gazette.

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