A report on a snapshot look on the region's homeless indicates a rising number of homeless people in the Southeast Missouri region.
The number of homeless people is difficult to track, as many are living on couches of friends or family, while others live out of sight in vehicles.
But the Missouri Housing Development Commission twice a year does a point-in-time count that gives a look at how many homeless are in an area on a given day.
In a story reported by Melissa Miller, the number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless in eight Southeast Missouri counties -- Cape Girardeau, Perry, Bollinger, Scott, Stoddard, Wayne, Mississippi and New Madrid -- increased slightly from 216 in the winter 2011 point-in-time count to 222 in the winter 2012 count.
Cape Girardeau County saw a decrease in homeless, from 124 in winter 2011 to 99 in winter 2012, but Scott County's homeless increased from 61 to 82 and Wayne County's homeless grew from zero to 15. Other Southeast Missouri counties' numbers remained steady.
In today's economy it's not surprising to see homeless numbers on the rise. Local social services leaders say the homeless nowadays aren't necessarily in that situation because of addiction or mental health issues, but because of an inability to find jobs with adequate pay, as costs for food, fuel, health care and other necessities rise.
Earlier this month, Project Homeless Connect -- an event aimed at helping the homeless get connected with services -- took place at the Osage Centre. It attracted 250 people, though not all of those who attended were homeless. A wide range of free services were offered, from haircuts to dental screenings to legal consultation.
It was a well-organized and successful event, and another indicator that there are great needs in our community. Please consider how you can help those less fortunate, whether by donating food, money or time. Contact the United Way of Southeast Missouri at 334-9634 to see how you can help.