Shelter and Resource Access
New River Valley, Virginia | Spring Break
Meet the Site Leaders!
Danielle St. Amand
Third Year Political Science Major
Shelter and Resource Access:
Danielle St. Amand and Thomas Hines
Shelter and Resource Access Facts and Figures
Housing and shelter insecurity is a national problem. There are approximately 600,000 people in the United States who lack a home. For those who are in poverty, housing can be a major expense. 19 million Americans use over half of their income on housing, making it difficult to move out of poverty.
Access to healthy and affordable food resources is also challenging for rural residents. Many rural areas are food deserts, which means they have limited supplies of fresh, affordable foods. This means that many people must rely on less nutritious options - such as food available at gas stations and convenience stores. Otherwise, they must drive far away from town. Nationally, 12.3 percent of of all US households are food insecure. In rural communities, 15 percent of the population have difficulty meeting their food needs.
Shelter and Resource Access in Athens, Georgia
Resource and shelter access is an important and relevant issue in Athens, Georgia. According to the Point in Time count conducted in 2017, there are 239 homeless people in Athens, 93 of which are unsheltered and 146 who are sheltered. Shelters in Athens are used by women and children. The only opportunity for homeless men to have shelter is in emergency housing during the winter months. However, this housing only offers shelter for 34 people. Food insecurity is also a prevalent issue in Athens Clarke County. In 2016 approximately 21.6% of Clarke County was food insecure.
As Athens-Clarke County is the most impoverished county in the state, there are several community homeless shelters and food initiatives that attempt to lessen the burden of poverty on local citizens. University of Georgia students additionally assist in these efforts, with numerous on-campus groups such as Campus Kitchen, Shop with a Bulldawg, and The Backpack Project all working towards a common goal: to alleviate the detrimental effects of homelessness and food insecurity.
Generational Poverty: When a family’s economic level remains low for two or more generations. Some common characteristics of a family with generational poverty is that it is highly mobile and/or that none of its members has ever owned land.
Food Insecurity: “The disruption of food intake or eating patterns because of lack of money and other resources” (healthypeople.gov); Food insecurity can be short-term or long-term depending on the family’s circumstances related to income, housing security, and disability.
Wealth Gap: Wealth is defined by the amount of materials an individual has; the wealth gap indicates a stark difference between the amount of these goods as distributed in society. Few individuals have the majority of the goods. This phenomenon is also colloquially referred to as the division between the “haves” and “have-nots.”
Environmental Racism: The intentional placement of hazardous waste sites, landfills, and other means of crucial depository entities near communities that have large populations of people of color. The sites often spew pollution into the communities, equating to poor health effects for the citizens. There is proven to be a strong correlation between the number of waste sites and the abundance of people of color in a population.
Systemic Discrimination: Persistent practice of treating certain groups of people more subordinately than others through established means such as through hiring restrictions or job placement. Discrimination can be based on age, race, or disability, among other criteria.
School to Prison Pipeline; Children are funneled from public schools to the criminal justice system through unjust schooling policies. Such policies, like zero-tolerance or a mandated decrease in funding to certain schools, contribute to students’ lack of acceptable academic performance.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): A federal welfare program that provides funding for low-income individuals to purchase food using a pre-loaded debit card. Around 6 million Americans currently use SNAP benefits to feed themselves and their families.
- https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/01/rural-americas-silent-housing-crisis/384885/ - This article describes the challenges related to having livable housing conditions in rural communities.
- www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/reports/2018/02/21/447051/systematic-inequality/ - Explains systemic inequality and the black wealth gap.
- https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/topics/food-and-hunger - Information about food deserts in rural communities.
- https://newrepublic.com/article/147011/rural-americas-drinking-water-crisis - Describes the rural water crisis.
- https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2018/04/30/in-rural-areas-hit-hard-by-opioids-a-new-source-of-hope - Rural areas are affected by the opoid epidemic and lack treatment faucilities.
- https://www.usda.gov/media/press-releases/2018/05/16/usda-invests-243-million-rural-community-facility-improvements-22 - Government appropriations to improve facilities in rural communities
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocqTQBk_aco - Children in the Mountains; shows Appalachia poverty struggles, kind of an older video
- https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2017/08/the-early-deaths-of-appalachians/536031/ - life expectancy is lower and infant mortality is higher in Appalachia
- https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/09/the-original-underclass/492731/ -chronological history of poverty in the Appalachia area
How does Shelter and Resource Access Intersect with Different Social Justice Issues?
Community Health and Wellness:
Rural residents face barriers to healthcare services. People living in these areas may have to travel long distances to have specialized treatment. Additionally, 12% of rural nonelderly people are uninsured. Studies also show that fewer insurance companies offer plans in rural areas, and that premiums increase in areas with little competition.
Racial trends regarding homelessness vary according to geographic location. If an individual is homeless in a rural environment, he or she is more likely to be married, female, and white. In urban areas, individuals are more likely to belong to a racial minority group. African Americans typically compose of the majority of homeless individuals in large cities. (http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/minorities.html).
An article discussing the misconceptions regarding the racial diversity of rural communities:
Discussion of the racial divisions in rural communities:
Disability/Ability Awareness and Advocacy:
People with intellectual and physical disabilities face difficult challenges when navigating shelter and resource access. Due to low income and specialized housing needs, people with disabilities can not afford rent nor can they often find properly equipped housing (https://www.thearc.org/what-we-do/public-policy/policy-issues/housing). When looking for housing, people with disabilities often face the most discrimination, even though multiple federal laws prohibit discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
Education Access and Advocacy:
A lack of updated paperwork, including immunization records and proof of residency, burden youth who are homeless from access to a quality education (https://www.nn4youth.org/wp-content/uploads/IssueBrief_Education.pdf). When housing for a family is unstable and children must change schools frequently, stress and anxiety increases for the children, which can have detrimental effects on their mental health and ability to learn material. When a family struggles with poverty and inconsistent housing, education access for children is not prioritized.
LBGTQ+ Advocacy and Awareness:
Shelters nationwide exist for members of the LGBTQ+ community to assist them in transitioning to independent housing with stability. One particularly renowned shelter in New York City, Trinity Place Shelter, supports the younger population of the LGBTQ+ community, as it is a place of refuge for those without accepting families (trinityplaceshelter.org). Unlike Trinity, many homeless shelters deny entrance to LGBTQ+ individuals, especially those who are transgender. According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ+ members (http://nationalhomeless.org/issues/lgbt/).