Sunday, February 26, 2017

Roanoke Homeless Facts

Hi friends, I hope that you are doing well. Many of you have joined up at our Stop Roanoke Panhandling Facebook Group, surpassing 1900 members in just about 2 months. There has been great discussions, images and posts about panhandlers and there have been some mention of homeless people here in the Roanoke Valley. Well, many panhandlers here in the valley are NOT homeless, quite the opposite actually.

Today, I want to share with you some information about the homeless population to help you better understand them so we can be helpful to those looking to get back on track with life as we work on figuring out our panhandling issue.

I want you to understand that while there may be a few homeless people in our area that do panhandle, most homeless people do not and not all homeless people are dumb, have mental or physical issues and they're people like you and me. The two, panhandling and homeless rarely overlap.

2016 Point in Time Information

The Blue Ridge Continuum of Care is a report from the Blue Ridge Interagency Council on Homelessness that has taken a snapshot in time if you will about our homeless population. Through a series of surveys they have been able to get some wonderful information about the demographics of our homeless.

There is some good news to report within the survey. There has been roughly a 15% decrease in our homeless since 2012. Currently, we have about 331 homeless people here in the Roanoke Valley. From that number, roughly 34% of the homeless are women and 66% are men, children under the age of 18 make up about 7% of the overall population. (click on the graphs and images if you need to enlarge them)

Through the many organizations here in the area, their strategies of helping homeless people are actually working. You can see that since about 2012 homeless numbers are going down, which is great for our area.

Diving Deeper

When you look at the demographics of the current homeless population, you start to see something pretty amazing, a majority of the homeless are everyday, normal people just like you and I. Let me share with you some demographics from the survey.

  • Age: the ages ranged from 20-70 with a median age of 48.
  • Where: 68.3% of respondents were living in the Blue Ridge Continuum of Care catchment area when they became homeless
  • Education: 76.5% (111) report having a high school/GED education or more. 
  • Food Stamps: 41.4 % (60) report receiving food stamps. 
  • Working: 51.7% (75) respondents were actively looking for work. 
  • Working Active: 27.6% (40) report to work on the books, while 3.4% (5) report to work off the books.  
  • Why: 29% (42) of respondents indicated unemployment as the primary reason for being homeless.
  • Mental Health: 43.4% (63) of individuals report to have previously received mental health services in the past.  
  • Treatment for Alcohol: 20.7% (30) report to have been treated for alcohol problems at some point.
  • Treatment for Drug Dependency: 22.1% (32) of respondents report to have received treatment for drug dependency previously.
The top 5 challenges faced by individuals (non-veterans) without homes include:

  • Affordable housing
  • Cannot find work
  • Medical problems
  • Dental problems and past incarcerations
  • Divorce
 The Rescue Mission is still the largest organization on our area that houses homeless individuals and their families followed by the Red Shield Lodge, the Warming Center and TRUST.

Looking at the race of our homeless population, most, nearly 62% are Caucasian, 34% are African-American descent and the rest are other minorities. 

Most people tend to think that homeless people are not educated. Through the survey, they discovered that most had a high school education and several have had college or a college degree too.


The survey also showed something interesting to me, work. of the 145 that took the survey, more than half our homeless are activity seeking work right here in the Roanoke Valley.


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