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EDWARDSVILLE — Data collected during the 2016 Point-In-Time Homeless Count reflects a slight increase in the number of people experiencing homelessness in Madison County.
The data, collected Jan. 27 in conjunction with the Madison County Partnership to End Homelessness, identified 419 people in the county who were experiencing homelessness. In 2015, the canvass identified 397 homeless individuals.
Madison County Board Chairman Alan J. Dunstan said the county is committed to doing what it can to combat homelessness. “Because it is difficult to obtain an accurate count of the people experiencing homelessness, the number of people in Madison County who are homeless is likely higher than the 419 people identified by the Partnership to End Homelessness,” he said.
The chairman said he was particularly alarmed at the number of children experiencing homelessness. Almost 49 percent of the people experiencing homelessness are children, an 8 percent increase from the previous year.
“It’s heartbreaking to know there are more than 200 children in our county who don’t have a home; kids who don’t know where they’ll be sleeping from night to night,” Dunstan said emphatically. “Everyone experiencing homelessness in Madison County needs our help, but especially the children.”
“That 8 percent represents 44 more kids than last year who were identified as homeless in Madison County,” said David Harrison of Madison County Community Development. “This year, we identified 206 homeless children. That number is absolutely shocking.”
Information obtained during the canvass included demographic information, the location where the person is currently staying, family composition, as well as veteran and mental health status. During the survey, 16 veterans experiencing homelessness were identified. There were also 85 households with children.
Madison County Community Development Administrator Frank Miles points out the two most predominant reported causes of homelessness in the 2016 data were unemployment and insufficient income.
“We can say with certainty that homelessness is an economic issue,” Miles said. “The state budget situation, if not remedied, makes fighting homelessness in Madison County — and in all of Illinois — an uphill battle. In the meantime, Madison County Community Development, along with its partners in the fight against homelessness, continues to seek out every opportunity to work alongside service agencies and maintain their efforts to the fullest of their capabilities.”
“We must increase our efforts to identify persons experiencing homelessness in Madison County and continue to improve our service delivery network,” Harrison says. “Our work will not be complete until every person who wants housing is able to get housing. Our work will not be complete until every family living in overcrowded conditions with another family or friend can get a place of their own.”
The homelessness count was conducted over a 24-hour period by members of the Madison County Partnership to End Homelessness, students from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and community volunteers. Surveyors were stationed at local emergency shelters and food pantries, emergency financial assistance agencies, mental health providers, hospitals, veterans’ organizations, police departments and other service organizations.