A story last week by Staff Writer Matt Dutton revealed how precariously close many people in this region and around the country are to finding themselves without a home.
Dutton told the story of Brenda Partridge, who was leading a happy life until health problems led to financial problems, collapsed relationships and, ultimately, without a place to live. "Kenny," a 26-year-old recovering alcoholic and drug addict, told how he has spent years cycling through living on the street and staying in shelters.
Sadly, their stories are repeated around the country.
A report by the National Alliance to End Homelessness shows that 549,928 people were homeless on a given night in the U.S. in January 2016. Of those, 194,716 were people in families, 77,486 were considered "chronically homeless," 35,686 were unaccompanied youth, and 39,471 were veterans.
The alliance notes that families become homeless as a result of some unforeseen financial crisis -- a medical emergency, a car accident, a death in the family -- that prevents them from being able to hold on to housing. Fortunately, statistics show that most are able to bounce back quickly, with relatively little public assistance.
Likewise, young people often become homeless because of family conflict, including divorce, neglect or abuse. Most return home or move in with family and friends within a short period of time.
Veterans often become homeless because of war-related disabilities. For a variety of reasons -- physical disability, mental anguish, post-traumatic stress, etc. -- many veterans find readjusting to civilian life difficult. Those difficulties can give rise to dangerous behaviors, including addiction, abuse and violence, which, coupled with the difficulties, can lead to homelessness.
Moreover, people experiencing chronic homelessness often end up living in shelters and consume a plurality of the homeless assistance system's resources.
The good news is that homelessness has dropped by 15 percent nationally since 2007 and declined by 3 percent between 2015 and 2016.
Several Quincy-area agencies are doing what they can to help address the problem. The Madonna House, Quanada, YWCA, Salvation Army and Fishers of Men all have programs and facilities to help combat homelessness, poverty, abuse and neglect.
However, resources continue to be limited.
"It's not a classification of a lifestyle," Joanne Dedert, Madonna House executive director, told The Herald-Whig. "They're down on their luck. They've had a hard time. With the right circumstances, anyone could be homeless."
That's a sobering thought. It should spur all of us to do what we can to help lift families and individuals out of the throes of homelessness.