Thursday, October 11, 2007

With rural homeless increasing in number, a North Carolina county takes action

While most of America's homeless people are in its urban areas, there is growing number in rural areas, especially where farms are consolidating or factories are disappearing. While harder to find, these rural homeless raise the same issues for their communities as their urban counterparts.

Surry County in northwest North Carolina has recognized the trend, so the Surry Homeless and Affordable Housing Coalition will use a $180,000 federal grant to hire a full-time caseworker for the homeless and to provide subsidized housing for homeless people with disabilities, reports the Winston-Salem Journal. Both are firsts for the county, which hopes to tackle the problem before it becomes even larger.

“I think a lot of folks assume that homelessness is a problem that only exists in the cities,” Wayne Black, the county’s director of social services, told the Journal’s Sherry Youngquist. “We do have homelessness in rural areas. The economy has been an issue. They layoffs from many manufacturer plants - that trickles down.”

The first difficulty in addressing the issue is first finding the rural homeless. A January count in Surry County tallied 90 homeless, but officials said that number is low. In Colorado, officials faced the same problem last year as they undertook the first count of rural homeless in 17 years, reports The Denver Post. In addition to the issue of counting the homeless, rural communities have fewer resources to offer those homeless, and thus the need for programs such as this one in Surry County.

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