Group discusses homelessness in rural areas, small cities

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Groups that serve homeless people in 18 mostly-rural counties met Wednesday in Greenup to discuss their work.

National housing policies divide the country into regional “continuums of care;” the South Central Illinois Continuum of Care includes Christian, Shelby, Effingham, Coles, Cumberland and other counties stretching between the Indiana and Missouri borders. Over the past twelve months, agencies in that region reported helping 746 homeless clients.

Those 746 cases included “rapid re-housing … for families that are suffering an impact or temporary loss, transitional housing, permanent housing for the permanently disabled and supportive services … which stabilize housing for the homeless,” explained Susie Beaumont, of the Embarras River Basin Agency.

Larry Sullivan, lead case manager for the Embarras River Basin Agency, said homelessness is more common in small cities and towns than many people suspect, adding that people can become homeless for any number of reasons.

“Most of them have just run into hard times,” Sullivan said. “Some are domestic violence risk … but there’s financial issues people can run into. There’s always alcohol and drugs that have caused a problem within a household and ex-offenders who just can’t find employment.”

Along with the physical problems of not having a place to live, Sullivan said homelessness can also cause emotional problems, leaving homeless people feeling isolated from others. He recommends people who are concerned about homeless people find ways to reach out to them.

“We need to get these people re-connected to the community,” Sullivan said. “Volunteering and helping these people to re-connect to the community and making them a viable part of the community instead of ostracizing them and making them a sub-class of people because they’re homeless.”

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