The Homeless Among Us: Everybody Needs Help Sometimes

Everyone Needs Help Sometimes

By Charlene Scott-Myers

There are many reasons why people become homeless, according to Marcie Smith, director of Family Services for Catholic Charities in Garden City, and a workshop leader at the recent Stewardship Conference in Dodge City.

“The homeless are our friends, our community members,” she said.  “Seventy percent of people live by paycheck to paycheck.  Medical problems can devastate a family.  Poverty is the main reason we see a lot of mental problems.  

“I worked with a lady with mental health problems, but she told me she couldn’t come any more [for counseling] because she couldn’t pay for it.”

Many people have addiction problems, but no family support, Smith said.

“A lot of people have nobody to call to get what they need.  It pulls at your heartstrings to see the homeless who have nothing.

“Do you think there is a problem in Southwest Kansas, where there are people who have to sleep in their car?  In Great Bend, a lot of the homeless sleep down by the river in tents.”

Many people who don’t have jobs end up on the street.  They don’t want to be homeless, but some are too sick to work or lack proper education to find a job.  

“They sometimes are dirty and don’t care for themselves,” Smith said.  “Others may go to a gym for free showers.  Some just want money for drugs and alcohol. One gentleman was begging all over town, but he had a home.  We offered him food rather than money.”

The homeless include single men, married couples, children, and women fleeing abusive spouses.  There aren’t as many homeless in small Southwest Kansas towns. “They do not have as many homeless as the big counties do,” Smith said.  

There are 30 emergency shelters in Southwest Kansas that offer transitional housing, and they all fill up when colder weather arrives.  “We have 50 or more people on a cold night,” Smith added. 

Sometimes several homeless people pool their small amount of money and share a motel room for the night.  Renting an apartment in Garden City costs from $500 to $575 monthly.  Renting a house costs $850 to $900 in Dodge City, with $700 deposits.

“The homeless need access to housing in a community, which gives a person a sense of ownership,” Smith said.  “Catholic Charities offers support services to meet the needs of homeless persons.”

The homeless are cold, hungry, lonely, desperate, depressed, and often hopeless, but Catholic Charities offers help and hope to them.  

“A place to live gives the homeless safety and security and a sense of self worth,” Smith said. “We had a man who was in and out of jail with alcohol and mental problems.  We were able to put him in a furnished apartment.  He is really trying, and we have seen so many positive changes in him the past six months.”

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