Think your town doesn’t have any homeless persons?
We don’t always recognize that someone is homeless. Someone might be dressed appropriately, appear fairly healthy, even show up for work or school on a regular basis.
Homelessness comes in many forms and may be hidden.
In Iowa, to be homeless means that a person lacks a fixed, regular and adequate nighttime residence or resides in a shelter, welfare hotel, transitional program or a place not ordinarily used as regular sleeping accommodations (Iowa Code Section 48A.2).
Non-ordinary accommodations include camping, sleeping in a car and or “couch surfing” at the homes of friends and relatives because a person has no permanent place to stay.
There are no homeless shelters or daily free meal centers anywhere in Dallas County.
Being homeless has a huge negative impact on health. Many homeless individuals have lost a job or lost their family breadwinner, causing loss of healthcare insurance as well.
Women with children are the fastest-growing class of homeless persons.
“Two-thirds of formerly homeless youths surveyed said that homelessness had a significant impact on their education, making it hard to stay and do well in school,” according to Ingram, Bridgeland, Reed and Atwell in their research, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Homeless Students in America’s Public Schools.”
Now that you realize you have homeless neighbors, what can you do?
You could volunteer at the mobile food pantry or free clothing closet. You could watch for opportunities to give someone a ride. You could be the friend who babysits on a moment’s notice. You could provide a safe place for a student to do homework.
Ann Cochran is the health navigation coordinator in the Dallas County Public Health Department.
Colin Keegan, Collins Dublin