Chicago Tribune, November 15, 2007: Poll: Homeless concerns rising

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By Jennifer C. Kerr
Associated Press


Nearly a third of Americans have at one point worried about becoming homeless and many more have taken in friends and relatives needing a home, a survey has found.

The homelessness issue has touched more than those living on the streets, according to the Gallup poll released Wednesday.

“People are worried,” said Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the Washington-based National Coalition for the Homeless. “When people read the news and read about bankruptcies, home foreclosures and auto plants being closed, they worry that they may be next.”

Overwhelmingly, those polled — 92 percent — said more effort is needed to address homelessness. Thirty-five percent said the federal government should take a lead role, while 25 percent said state governments were most responsible for addressing homelessness.

Twenty-eight percent said they were concerned at one time about becoming homeless while 44 percent said they had opened their homes to a friend or relative facing homelessness.

The survey found 58 percent of respondents think the number of homeless has increased in the last decade.

Recent Department of Housing and Urban Development figures show a decline in the number of chronically homeless, those described as continuously living on the streets for a year or more or homeless at least four times in the past three years. That number dropped by nearly 12 percent from 2005 to 2006 — from 175,900 to 155,600.

Overall, HUD estimates there were 754,000 homeless people in 2005, the latest year for which figures are available.

The poll also looked at the perceived causes of homelessness.

Eighty-five percent of those questioned cited abuse of alcohol and drugs as a major cause of homelessness, followed by mental illness, a mental disability or post-traumatic stress disorder.

The poll was conducted on behalf of mortgage giant Fannie Mae, which has low-income house grant programs.

Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune

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