Brunswick County group lives in the cold to draw attention to the homeless
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- Homelessness is a big problem in this country, and one we don't always see because many people who are displaced are wary and stay out of sight.

One group in Brunswick County faced the conditions of homelessness head-on during this cold night to make people aware of the problem that exists right here.

"We're just a small ministry ourselves, and just since the first of September my husband's Street Team, which is all volunteers, have helped 21 individuals that they have gotten out of mini storage buildings and boxes that they were living in," Donna Phelps said.

To make others aware of the plight of the homeless Phelps and her ministry invited people to join them living for a day as the homeless do. This isn't camping. These are cardboard boxes, tarps plastic bags and the very basics.

Jay Hancock has lived on the streets.

"Suffering, scared. it's not fun," Hancock said. "I hope we can do something to help the homeless. This is rough out here."

Hancock is better able to take the cold than his dog Taco, and the night was very cold. A fire provided much needed warmth for the group.

Phelps wants the whole community to get a message from her experience.

"I want people to realize that we are all supposed to be our brothers' and sisters' keepers, and with the way the economy is going and with the way the chaos is in the world and people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and really struggling that more than anything we just want to see communities come together and try and reach out and help each other," Phelps said.

Phelps says the problem is growing with the economic problems in Brunswick County, but you can help. Volunteers and donations are welcome. If you want to add to the solution contact Brunswick Family Assistance at (910) 754-4766.

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Nowhere did I say, "Don't help the homeless."

What I said was that if you're not addressing their substance abuse or mental illness, you're not doing much good.

Oh, there's no harm in giving one a pair of gloves or a blanket....even though it may get him killed when a bigger, healthier homeless guy decides he wants them.....and you can certainly feed them and give them water, as another poster suggested.

Unless you are doing something to get at the root cause of each individual's problem, however, you're accomplishing very little. Most are addicted, many are nuts, and some simply enjoy the lifestyle. (No bills, no responsibilities, no one telling you what you have to do) Pick any chronic homeless person and you'll likely find a blend of all three issues. No two stories are the same.

The governmnet has neither the obligation nor money to save them. So if you want to let one sleep on your porch on a rainy night, you're a nice person. If you give one a few bucks, you're an idiot because you are re-fueling the very problem that made him (or her) homeless.

first of all, let me just say that the work that you are doing is commendable, and you should continue to aid the area homeless individuals in every way possible...but with extreme caveats!!!

Funding has been drastically cut and they need all the help you can give to them with securing a safe haven first....(shelters), and then BACK into permanent housing.
Remember, "where there is a will there is a way."

Also, I do agree with commonsensenote statements of the high correlation between mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness.
It is a fact, supported by past and current empirical literature.

This brings me to my next statement, which is, you better read as much of the hard literature, as you can find, as opposed to the picture books of homelessness. I would suggest that you go to a university library, pull empirical articles, supported by field research and read the millions that exist, and they will support the correlations, but will never teach you what you need to know to work with homeless people, as each of them will teach you. They will teach you that dispite their addictions and multitudes of personal trials, not one of them CHOOSE to be homeless,no matter what ANYONE says about it being a "culture" choice.
Take toilet paper and small towels and bottled water to them. Do not use over-compassionate religious measures with them, but never talk-down to them, they are most likely smarter than you and I together. Ask them to go with you to safety, and do not drop the ball when you get them started, get them into a $$$ recovery program immediately. You better know what you're doing. These are peoples lives, and they are used to getting shafted...even by well-meaning church people.

Lastly, safety is your number one concern.
InHisName.

...is that upwards of 70% of them are subtance abusers and/or mentally ill. Their own misconduct or carelessness got them there.

Good luck trying to help them, but until you can get them off or on drugs, depending upon each individual's need, you're shovelling sand against the tide.

Would you share with us where you get the statistic that 70% of homeless individuals are substance abusers and/or mentally ill? When did you conduct your research that produced this number? Thank you for your comment.

The 70% figure comes from the VA, in a study of homeless veterans. Do you believe that it would be widely off in a study of the general homeless population?

Commonsensenot,
Having mental illness is most definitely neither misconduct nor carelessness. There is a strong genetic component to both mental illness and addiction, and many were raised in environments in which abuse and neglect are rampant. Up to 80% of female and 60% of male substance abusers have a history of being victims of sexual assault and other forms of violence and abuse. Is that misconduct or carelessness? Perhaps...but not necessarily theirs.
Many mentally ill people and people with substance use disorders try to get help every day but are unable to access the care that they need within a system that is very broken. Yes, unless many of these individuals get the help that they desperately need, they will continue in a cycle and system that not only fails them but that fails our entire community...

I apologize for my poorly phrased sentence which implies that mental illness is due to carelessness or misconduct.

Mental illness, however, is in the minority when it comes to chronic homelessness. Addiction gets top billing, and there's no such thing as an instantaeous addict. You have to work hard at it. I am well aware of the genetic link, having a paternal family with a strong history of alcoholism, but frankly, don't care. Self-respect and discipline are strong armor against addiction. You become an addict because of your own weakness, carelessness, and misconduct.

Here's the bottom line - it all comes down to who is responsible for what, and the basic definition of "what is a right." I don't care if you're Rush Limbaugh or ol' Gladys downtown: Society is not obligated to fund your rehab when you did it to yourself.

You say "the system is broken," I say that their families are first and foremost responsible for them. I also understand that many times their families cannot make a dent in their conduct. I have a relation by my former marriage who trips offline every year or so and lives on the street for a few weeks or months, then calls and wants to come home.

They let him come home, and he keeps it up.

At a certain point, you have to wish them luck and write these people off. Often THAT is the stimulus that pushes them to recovery, when they turn around and they finally realize that there's no one there, and no one cares if they live or die.

We are all one pay check away from being homeless, well those of us who make it week to week anyhow!

Mr. big shot who thinks all homeless are drunks, druggies or mentally ill must not be paying attention. There are many families with children homeless. Where do you think THEY went when they lost jobs and their houses forclosed on???

Get off your high horse and show compassion. When I see a homeless person needing help--IF I have a few extra dollars I hand it to them. Novel idea----help someone without your pre conceived idea they are going to spend the money on alcohol or drugs. What if they do? well, you most likely won't give them more then $5.00 so what difference does it make if it gets them through the night in comfort? Maybe the person really is hungry or a father trying to get enough to feed his kids in the woods huddled in the box a loaf of bread and some water to keep them alive.

"When I see a homeless person needing help--IF I have a few extra dollars I hand it to them."

Every single professional who REALLY know homeless individuals, and there are many who do, I among them, will tell you that you should NEVER Give money to them. It disables the outreach workers ability to COMPETE WITH YOU!
A few dollars?

You do not know this, (I can tell)...but the 'vagabond' is messin' with you. He (mostly male) makes $100-$200 dollars a day...sitting, looking pathetic. He IS NOT a typical homeless person. He is a scam artist and would rob you if given the opportunity. THEY INDEED do LOVE their lifestyle. LOCK YOUR CAR for sure.
Inside information is that Black people and Mexicans are the most generous to them, as they have told us many times.Whites in Mercedes and Beamers never give! S-M-A-R-T!!!
What else do you want to KNOW, Instead of ACTING like you know?

There are 40 to 50 agencies in New Hanover that aid these folks whom we all care about. I care ABOUT THEM, but they cannot be painted with a broad brush. THERE are FACTS that WE KNOW as social scientists.

The facts are that a very high per-centage of our area homeless community is a result of MENTAL ILLNESS. SUBSTANCE ABUSE. Same with the National statistics. That is not a "discount", that is a FACT.
The types of mental illness that lead to homelessness are primarily schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder, if the person does not stay on their medications. Most cannot afford them, due to bouts of unemployment, quite often, as a result of their illness.

Veterans are an entirely DIFFERENT Story. Many who were in 'Nam suffer from PTSD, and debilitating health disorders as a result of Agent Orange, Agent Purple, Agent White.
Iraq and Afganistan veterans are coming home and we have only seen the TIP of the ICEBERG with their PTSD and brain truama issues. We better be ready, but we are NOT. Thus, the HOMELESS DEBATE will go on and on and on.

I also do not believe the Government is responsible for their care, coordination and recovery. I LOVE THE Church group that is "walking the walk and talking the talk." They are doing MORE than showing up for warm and cozy Mass or Church service once a week.
MORE Churches and 'righteous' COMMUNITY ORGANIZERS like Barack Obama should donate their time and talents to aid and house the poor and hungry.

Foreclosure is changing the picture of homelessness, for sure. That is not who we are talking about Guest 123. There are many types and forms of homelessness, and the people that we call the "chronic homeless" are the ones living in the woods because they can't take the shelters after 20 years of being a part of the "group dynamics" within those walls.

This church group is reaching out to all homeless folks, I am sure...but the ONES that they are interfacing with are most likely not the new situational homeless people who have lost everything due to getting IN OVER THEIR HEADS with a $1200.00 to $2000.00 monthly mortgage, during the GOOD economy...and they were probably MOST guilty of "FLIPPING HOUSES", smart A$$es that they were. Who in their right mind takes on a high monthly house payment when they make Minimum wage? Repeal the DODD/FRANK Bill!!!

First, the concept that "we are all one paycheck away from homelessness" has been de-bunked by several reputable news organizations. Most people have savings, investments, or some fall-back plan.

Second, if they are homeless with children, it begs the question of why they were having children when they were obviously financially incapable of providing for them? Whoa! Here's a novel idea! Make sure that you are settled and financially secure before you have kids! If you're a high-school dropout working at a fast-food restaurant, what in the world are you doing having kids?

Third, if you think that handing a few bucks to a homeless person who then uses it to buy booze or drugs helps them in any way, I can only assume that you're one of the urine-soaked winos using a public computer at the library. DSS will not let kids live in a box in the woods, so maybe dad should hand them over to foster care?

As I've said before, I support several charities that care for the TRULY deserving - people who had no way to prevent their fate in life. That doesn't include the homeless. I'm not funding their next bottle of Wild Irish Rose or their next rock.

Wild Irish Rose isn't so bad,try it on crushed ice with a twist of lime - pretty good. I agree with the rest of your post.

I totally agree with you. Anyone can be one step away from being homeless. Don't think so? Just ask the people that lost their homes to hurricane Katrina or the people who lost their homes to tornadoes and had nowhere to go. How many people are losing their homes to foreclosure and are ending up on the street. It only takes one little thing to make you homeless and sometimes it is not by choice.

I agree with most of your comments. However, I would also like to add that there are MANY programs all over town (as well as federal, state, and city/county funds) to help the homeless with food, shelter, and clothing. Your $5.00 would be best spent contributing to those organizations, instead of giving it to those who may use it for reasons other than the purpose it was intended.

With all the organizations around Wilmington, there is no need to go hungry or sleep without a roof over their heads. A lot of the folks who live out in the woods choose to do so because they don't want to follow the rules at the shelters. I used to work for a homeless shelter and I know this for a fact.

I'm a big believer in helping those who can't help themselves. But I will always choose to provide that help through a reputable organization instead of placing it directly in their hands and face the uncertainty of whether it was used for the intended purpose or wasted on drugs and alcohol.