Homelessness Awareness on Campus

Larry Robinson, Features Editor

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When you think of Owensboro, images of tobacco fields and bluegrass music may come to mind. The city that has a little over 58,000 residents is often referred to as a good place to raise a family or a relaxing place to retire to, and with good reason. This small Kentucky town isn’t known to make waves or national newscasts. In fact, many of its own nightly news shows are filled with information from surrounding cities and counties. In comparison to other cities, Owensboro has an extremely low average number of homicides. Criminal activity in general seems to almost just skip over this river city.

If you take a few minutes to cruise down the main streets of “OBKY,” it’ll appear to be just that, almost a like a little unknown piece of American paradise. You won’t find anyone sleeping on park benches or laying his/her head down beneath the bridge as a way to somewhat protect from the elements while sleeping. It’s easy for the majority to forget that the “homeless” in our community do in fact exist. They struggle every day to make ends meet, to find a way to feed their children, and to find a place to take a hot shower. We have homeless people just like any city does. But you don’t see them on every corner with a sign begging for necessities, Owensboro as a community takes care of them.

Several permanent programs are in place year round, and the need for those programs continue to grow even if their funding doesn’t. The winter months, especially when they bare frigid temperatures for extended periods of times, are when the homeless shelters become the most stressed. The usual population of homeless individuals remain the same during the winter with the addition of those who would normally be “squatters.” These squatters often live in homes that have been condemned or in homes that have been neglected, and neither have working utilities. When the cold sets in these people have to find their way to a shelter or a “warming center” in order to survive.

With the increase of people in need, local shelters are forced to turn to the community for help, and as you would expect, Owensboro always responds. The impending winter with temperatures at a record low has put a lot of pressure on the Daniel Pitino and St. Benedict shelters in particular. Both are in need of raising their own thermostats but finding just doesn’t allow it. As a way to overcome this several organizations as well as individuals have been holding “blanket drives.” They have been asking people to donate new or used and in good condition blankets to give to the shelter residents to attempt to make up the difference. Audubon Area Community Services also conducted a “coat drive” and collected over 100 new or used coats that were distributed to the homeless and others that needed them.

There are also several options to find food for the homeless in Owensboro. The city has a large soup kitchen hosted by the Pinito Shelter, groceries available at the Help Office, and various church programs that provide groceries in emergency situations. Recently, the popular high end restaurant, Lure even made their own attempt of relieving some of the homeless’ dietary needs. For every meal they served to paying customers on Valentine’s Day, they vowed to donate a meal to the St. Benedict’s men’s shelter and Adrienne’s House, a shelter for abused women. The donated meal was to be served the following afternoon.

Despite that this effort will only provide a temporary fix, the awareness it raised may have long term benefits. With Lure being a dining place of the more affluent portion of the community, their actions may serve as a wakeup call to those financially capable of making monetary contributions to the local shelters. The “one for one,” idea may also challenge other restaurants or other types of businesses to take the initiative to give back in a similar manor.

Community programs will continue to help supplement the needs of those less fortunate in the small city of Owensboro, Kentucky. With the efforts of concerned individuals, church outreach, and community involvement from the business sector, Owensboro should have no problem maintaining the care of those less fortunate.

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