Each year in Springfield, 1200-1400 individuals plus 500-600 families experience a spell of homelessness. Our most recent point-in-time count, in January 2006, identified 237 individuals and 35 families homeless on that one night.
Some of Springfield's homeless are people suffering from mental illness or substance abuse problems, and these people are highly visible on our streets and in our parks. This population - about 20% of the entire homeless population—is referred to as the chronic homeless, and these individuals experience long-term or repeat homelessness.
Many homeless people are not visible, however. They are working and disabled very low-income households, including families, who lose their housing through job loss, illness or eviction. Most people who become homeless experience a one-time crisis that is resolved when they obtain new housing.
There is no one cause of homelessness. Contributing factors include:
The problem of homelessness seems to finally be getting the attention of our local, state, and national leaders. Particularly in Springfield, Mayor Sarno and his predecessor Mayor Ryan have worked with the Friends of the Homeless, other local and state officials, and concerned businesses and individuals to develop a better understanding of our specific issues and challenges. This has resulted in comprehensive reports and plans that give us hope for the future.
Just in the past few years, we have seen the following:
While all of these reports hold promise, the fact remains that funding for homeless projects is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Changing economic realities and constantly shifting priorities make it difficult to achieve meaningful short term progress.
It is vitally important for the community to show its support for these efforts both by letting their elected officials know this is an important issue and by supporting the Friends of the Homeless through our various Ways To Help channels.
There are many excellent documents and websites that deal with the issues of homelessness in the country and within the Commonwealth. Of particular interest are two of the documents noted below which deal with Springfield and the Pioneer Valley.
To read the latest report from the National Coalition to End Homelessness click on this link. The report was issued in January 2012.
A public policy advocacy alliance for homelessness issue.
Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration - Homelessness Services.
A Blog from a network of advocates taking a regional approach to ending homelessness in Western Mass.
The Interagency Council on the Homeless was authorized by Title II of the landmark Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act enacted on July 22, 1987 (PL 100-77).