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CITY OF LINCOLN   •   NEWS RELEASE   •   FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date:
November 21, 2002
For More Information Contact:
Diane Gonzolas, Citizen Information Center, 441-7831
Susanne Blue, Matt Talbot Kitchen, 477-4116
Scott Young, Food Bank of Lincoln, 466-8170

Mayor Works with Local Agencies to
Promote Awareness of Homelessness and Hunger

Mayor Don Wesely today signed a proclamation declaring November as Homeless and Hunger Awareness Month in the City of Lincoln. The Lincoln Lancaster County Homeless Coalition and its Continuum of Care Planning and Evaluation Committee have been working to raise awareness of issues that face low-income and homeless individuals and families as part of this week’s national observance of Homeless and Hunger Awareness Week.

"A week from today, many of us will sit down with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving in nice, warm homes with a traditional feast," said Mayor Wesely. "But statistics show us that we have a growing number of individuals and families in our community who are homeless and hungry. This is a situation that impacts our entire community. "

The "Point in Time Count" was conducted November 7 by those who provide services to the homeless in cooperation with the Lincoln Police Department. The goal was to obtain an unduplicated count of the homeless in Lincoln. The results indicated the total number of homeless was 1,812, including 600 children. Other findings:

  • The number of individuals in emergency shelter was 506, and the number in transitional shelter was 503.
  • The number of family members is emergency shelter was 200, and the number in transitional housing was 213.
  • The number of individuals on the Housing and Urban Development Department waiting list was 152, and the number of families was 150.
  • The number of individuals on the street was 81, and the number of families was seven.
"The count confirms what agencies serving the homeless already know – the numbers are going up," said Susanne Blue, Executive Director of the Matt Talbot Kitchen, a hunger relief and outreach program for Lincoln’s working poor and homeless. Blue is also Chair of the local Homeless Coalition, which includes about 20 agencies. "In a 20-month period, Lincoln experienced a 30 percent increase in the number of people identified as homeless."

Blue said advocates believe the actual number of homeless is higher than that identified in the "Point in Time Count" because those not receiving services at the time the survey was conducted were not counted. Homeless who are living in cars or motel rooms or staying with family or friends were not counted.

The Matt Talbot Kitchen and its many volunteers have provided service to the community for 10 years. In addition to serving two meals every day, the program provides life skills training, assistance with the Homeless Identification Project, health services, information and referral. Blue said the program provides an average of 9,000 free meals every month to Lincoln’s working poor and homeless. She projects that more than 100,000 meals will be provided by the end of the year. In 2001, 95,000 meals were provided.

Scott Young, Executive Director of Lincoln Food Bank, said his agency distributed 1.9 million pounds of food in the first 10 months of this year, an increase of 9.4 percent over the same time last year. The Food Bank has 180 recipient programs, a seven percent increase over the 168 served in 2001. The good news, said Young, is that the Food Bank of Lincoln had 1.9 million pounds of food donated in the first 10 months of this year, a 6.8 percent increase over the same period last year.

"We have just launched our Holiday Food Drive, one of the most important of the year," said Young. "By raising awareness of the hunger and homelessness problem in our community, we hope to encourage those who are more fortunate to share with their neighbors."

"With the recent economic downturn, more people are hurting during this holiday season," said Mayor Wesely. "Lincoln is a giving community, and I believe our citizens will step forward to help."

The Lincoln Lancaster Homeless Coalition works to educate the public and raise awareness of issues surrounding the homeless and to encourage citizen involvement. The Coalition’s Continuum of Care Planning and Evaluation Committee identifies gaps in services, coordinates the "Point in Time Count" and conducts a peer review of service providers.

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