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Shelter seeing record numbers of homeless

Date: 10/17/2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD — While there has been continuing progress in the economy with improving statistics out on unemployment and foreclosure rates, The Friends of the Homeless is seeing an increase in the number of people seeking shelter.

Executive Director Bill Miller told Reminder Publications that last year the average number people housed at the Worthington Street shelter was 146. During the summer months, when use of the shelter is traditionally decreased the average was 150, and now in October, Miller said the average has increased to 160.

He said he hadn't seen that high a number of people since February.

Since Jan. 1, the shelter has placed 170 people into permanent housing, but finding housing is still "tough," Miller explained.

He said that of the current population who use the shelter, 60 percent have a prior Springfield address and 15 percent cited an address from greater Springfield. Miller added that in 2011, people from more than 60 communities from across the Commonwealth used the shelter.

Could the shelter hit its maximum capacity? "That fear is always out there," Miller replied.

"We use whatever flexible space we have," he added.

The focus remains, though, on "moving people along to [permanent] housing,' Miller said.

The resources of the shelter are being stretched and Miller believes most people don't realize the organization struggles for funding.

"We are one of the lowest funded programs in the state, " he said. "We are working toward parity."

Miller said that many people don't understand that Friends of the Homeless is a nonprofit organization that accepts tax-deductible donations.

"We're not 100 percent government funded," Miller explained. "Donations make a different for us."

"Our goal is not to provide Thanksgiving dinner for people who are homeless. Our goal is to help them have a home for the holidays!" he said.

The easiest way to make a donation is through the Friends of the Homeless website at