OPINION: Addressing misconceptions surrounding homelessness

Ebonee Gabhart

One of the simplest pleasures I indulge in is coming home to a warm house. Especially with the winter season quickly approaching, it is a relief being able to escape from the harsh chill of the winter atmosphere.

In our growing, yet still homely, city of Bowling Green it is often easy to forget the incidence of homelessness and all that it entails. Rhondell Miller, one of directors of “Hotel Inc.,” a nonprofit community that provides Warren County citizens with pathways to stable housing, gave me information based upon collective data from shelters and schools systems that they serve.

Miller said it is estimated Warren County has 400-600 people experiencing homelessness on any given day. This information coincides with reports provided by the Bowling Green Daily News in recent years in its covering of our homeless population.

It is easy to forget that homelessness is something that can affect anyone, as well as our loved ones, and it is something most people don’t want to talk about. There seems to be a stigma surrounding individuals who have found themselves in this predicament that substance abuse is always a factor. Rhondell Miller said relationship changes and too high of a percentage of income being spent on housing are the two highest reasons people become homeless in our population.

Miller went on to list excessive bills, mental illness and addiction as other reasons that land people in this situation.

Even though many of us cannot begin to imagine this sort of problem affecting us or anyone that we know, Miller said students often find themselves homeless while in school. I asked for ways in which students on campus could raise awareness about this issue, to which Miller replied, “Students could engage on campus by asking questions regarding non-traditional students and other demographics [of] college students [at risk of being] homeless while in school. Each year we encounter a few students who are homeless. Some live in cars. Some couch surf. Some stay in 24 hour buildings.”

For individuals who live off campus, she mentioned seeking volunteer organizations as well as raising funds and awareness that this is a problem that affects all ages. “Hotel Inc.” is not the only organization in Bowling Green that takes strides to help the homeless population. “Room in the Inn” is a nightly shelter that also helps those in need.

In the spirit of this month and in the practice of being mindful, thankful and giving, I feel we should all take the time to be thankful for the basic staples in life that we do possess.