While cold winds circulate outside, those without means can always find help inside House of Praise.
In conjunction with the national Point-in-Time survey, the Local Homeless Coalition in Ellis County offered resources like food and clothes to locals without shelter during the "Let’s Get Warm Giveaway" all day Thursday.
“We all know there are needs and we are working to fix those needs,” said Melissa Rawlins, Ellis County Homeless Coalition chairperson.
The Point-in-Time count, also known as PIT, is an annual survey of all the people without homes in the U.S. While this was happening nationally, Ellis County organizations — geared to helping those without homes — gathered at House of Praise. There, they provided connections to counselors and clinics, offered a hot meal and gave warm clothes.
House of Praise members cooked meals and supported the 40 visitors who were in need, Rawlins said. Trinity Waxahachie provided a pancake breakfast, Penny Haney offered a hotdog lunch, and the McCambridge family served a spaghetti dinner.
Keynote speaker Felecia Warner, who studied gerontology and volunteers at the Ellis County Habitat for Humanity, spoke about what homelessness is and how and who can become homeless.
“Anyone can become homeless,” she said.
Homelessness, Warner explained, is not having a permanent or stable home. Couch surfacing, for example, is a form of homelessness, she said.
The demographics for homelessness fluctuate, but more increasingly they are elderly, as the baby boomer generation ages out of jobs, she noted. These baby boomers include women —who were married and were stay-at-home moms and caretakers — and they are getting divorced decades into their marriage. Because of the low social security and retirement income, they are becoming homeless.
“Women live longer and remain in poverty longer,” she said.
Some of the problems people face is finding a place to stay and keeping families together, Warner added. The issue families face is separation because of shelter requirements.
She added that part of what will help homelessness is looking at preventing it. Increasingly, younger people are obtaining crushing amounts of student debt which means it is harder for them to purchase homes and can lead to homelessness.
Warner claimed that homelessness is a problem that city and county officials are not addressing.
Waxahachie councilmember Chuck Beatty said about a year ago, the council implemented the “Make a Difference” campaign to help the homeless population.
“Make a Difference” is geared toward finding volunteers and offering help to those who need it through several websites including volunteerelliscounty.org and helpfinder.org.
The campaign fliers with the information are all over town, he said, including city hall. He even keeps a stack in his car.
“Everybody comes at us like we have to do everything, but we try to do as much as we can,” Beatty said. He explained that the council has to look at the whole picture of Waxahachie and there are limited resources.
Around House of Praise, vendors like the Hope Clinic explained what resources it had to offer to people as they filtered through the room. One of the Hope Clinic representatives was counselor Sandra Bruce who spoke about trends of homelessness.
Bruce explained many factors contribute to homelessness like drug addiction and mental health. These are so intertwined with one another that it’s hard to separate, she said.
The Hope Clinic offers medical care and behavioral assistance in Waxahachie and Ennis. Bruce focuses on the behavioral side of a patient like pushing past drug addiction.
“We like to treat the patient holistically,” she said.
The rise in opioid abuse is seen among the homeless population and even contributes to the increasing number of drug overdose-related deaths.
Bruce said homelessness is cyclical and even handed down unintentionally from parents to children. Events like the Let’s Get Warm Giveaway help combat homelessness and make people more comfortable.
“People don’t want a handout,” she said. “They want a hand up.”
Samantha Douty, @SamanthaDouty