More people fall into homelessness in tough economy

By Laurie Bernstein - bio | email

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - In this tough economy, families who have never been in need are now finding themselves relying on others to make it.

Many organizations like the Homeless Resource Network help those in need around the Valley, but some aren't taking advantage of these programs, too afraid to be labeled as homeless.

"It sneaks up on people. We all think something good is going to happen," said Liz Alcantara, the director of Homeless Resource Network.

The reality in this economy...good things don't always happen.

Alcantara and her employees see the same story play over and over, with more people than ever before coming in to their office for help after they lose their jobs.

"It's a challenging time, with the pressure people feel, asking 'Where I am going to go, what will I do, how's it going to work?' In addition, they have to take care of  their families. It's a tough time," said Alcantara.

Valley Interfaith Promise is another one of the organizations dedicated to helping these families.

Many used to have steady incomes and a roof over their heads, but because of the economy, they now find themselves on the streets.

"What this economic time has allowed people to realize is that homelessness can happen to anybody," said Victor Feliciano, the director of Valley Interfaith Promise.

The organization has seen an increase in calls to their office inquiring about their program, but in the end, not too many people choose the shelter route.

"A lot comes down to the pride issue. Their version of the 'American Dream' is home ownership, having that job with benefits," said Feliciano.

When it all falls through the cracks, many don't want to admit they failed.

These social workers stress, though, that there is nothing wrong with asking for a little help when you need it most.

"To be labeled as homeless, it's not a welcoming idea, but it's just an experience, and it's not a definition of who you are and all that you will be," said Alcantara.

There are so many resources available in Columbus if you're unemployment benefits have run out and you are in danger of ending up on the streets.

To get started, just dial 211. That will hook you up with the Homeless Resource Network office here, and they will put you in touch with organizations around the Valley that are there to help.

For more help with the career search, you can call Goodwill, who offers one-on-one appointments with counselors to work on your resume and help you track down job leads.

That number is 706-987-8495.