Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homelessness in Delaware: Stats Tell Only Part of the Story

This is the time of year when we reapply for funding for our homeless program. Part of my job is to update the numbers we cite to demonstrate the need for our services. Delaware has a number of organizations that do excellent work and compile a ton of data; however, I must admit it’s a tedious task to pore over statistics, comparing last year’s stats with this year’s. It’s easy to forget that behind the percentages and bar graphs are real people with real stories. And I think many of us in Delaware are unaware of either the stats or the stories.

So perhaps by sharing some of both with you, I can make my work a little less dry by encouraging you to learn more about Delaware’s homeless problem. Find out what you can do to help by contacting BCI, supporting our work with a donation, or visiting another of the Web sites below.

First the stats:

  • How many people are homeless in Delaware? 1,479, according to the Homeless Planning Council’s most recent point-in-time count. Their survey also indicated that 31% of Delaware’s homeless experience chronic substance abuse and 34% experience mental illness.

  • How many people live below poverty level in Delaware? 10.3%, according to the 2007 U.S. census. In Sussex County, it is 9.7%. In past years, Sussex was above the state average, so it is interesting to see it go down. I would be interested to know what the reason for this could be.

  • How much does it cost to rent a two-bedroom apartment in Delaware? $923 is the Fair Market Rent, the monthly cost of rent and utilities. The Housing Wage is the hourly wage someone must earn to afford this rent without spending more than 30% of their income. Currently, Delaware’s Housing Wage is $17.75 an hour, which equates to more than 2 minimum wage jobs working 40 hours per week year-round. These numbers are from the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s publication called “Out of Reach.”
Now the stories:

I recently discovered the video blog Invisible People through the Non-Profit List of Change. Each post is an interview with a homeless person, filmed in cities all across the country. I urge you to check it out to hear what daily life is like for them, in their own words. Here’s an example.


Tracy and her children from InvisiblePeople.tv on Vimeo.

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