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Why You Should Give Back During Homelessness and Hunger Awareness Week

Illustrations by Macey Elder

By Emily Squance, Blogger 

Homelessness and hunger appear to go hand in hand but oftentimes they are a lot more independent than one would think. 1 in 8 Americans are food insecure, meaning they don’t have consistent access to food, which may affect their health and daily living. Many Americans can be food insecure without being homeless; however, sometimes they are forced to choose between the two. In fact, 57% have reported having to choose between food and housing

There are many people who rely on food stamps (SNAP) and local food pantries to guarantee their next meals; however, even those sometimes aren’t enough. Many families struggle to find food to put on the table, and sometimes the food they do find might do more harm than good. For many families, finding healthy food options can be hard due to high costs; 84% of households report buying the cheapest foods instead of healthy foods. National Hunger and Homelessness Week isn’t just about raising awareness for these issues but it’s also about actively taking responsibility for your part in the issue. Most of us are guilty of buying or making more food than we can eat and a recent study found that food waste accounts for approximately 30% to 40% of the food supply.

Homelessness, on the other hand, can occur in many forms. Some people can start “couch-surfing” at an early age, unable to find a reliable home. While others are forced to look toward the streets for shelter. In 2019, approximately 567,715 Americans experienced homelessness, and out of that number, around 200,000 Americans were left unsheltered. It’s easy to take for granted things that have been given to us throughout our whole lives, like owning a house or having a warm place to sleep at night, but something as simple as owning a home could be a matter of life or death. People who are homeless have a life expectancy of 20 years lower than people who have a home. 

Being homeless has negative impacts on all ages and genders, but it can have an everlasting impact on the youth. 1 in 3 homeless teens will be lured into prostitution within the first 48 hours of leaving home. Furthermore, those teens are also three times more likely to have depression, conduct disorder and PTSD. Homeless youth, particularly ones part of the LGBTQ community, are also frequently subjected to violence with 62% of LGBTQ youth reporting being physically harmed while homeless.

National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week is important for many reasons, but in 2020, it is even more crucial. The coronavirus outbreak has affected these issues greatly by increasing food insecurity and putting many homeless people at risk. Since the pandemic, unemployment and poverty rates have gone up incredibly. Many of the homeless, particularly the unsheltered, are more vulnerable to the coronavirus considering they are four times more likely to report a physical health condition. Due to the pandemic, approximately 17 million children may not know where to get their next meals. 

The pandemic has negatively impacted many people across the U.S. but it’s important to reach out and help those in need. Use Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week to educate yourself on how to get involved with your local communities. Help be a part of the solution by volunteering and supporting anti-poverty agencies. Donating to organizations like Feeding America or the National Coalition for the Homeless could help many families everywhere who are struggling with hunger and homelessness. 

Many view Thanksgiving as a holiday for recognizing the things you’re thankful for. Throughout National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and into Thanksgiving try to give back to those in need and remember a little help can go a long way.

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