Group brings awareness to homelessness, hunger with event (w/video)

Nov. 18, 2013 at 5:18 a.m.

The Victoria Area Homeless Coalition is hosting a week of events to bring awareness to hunger and the homeless.

"Nobody wants to talk about it because no one wants to believe it's true," said Kim Pickens with the Victoria Area Homeless Coalition.

For the first time, the group has organized a weeklong set of events in hopes of changing even one life.

From challenging residents to eat only $5 worth of food a day to offering volunteer work and youth activities, National Hunger & Homelessness awareness week kicked off Sunday night.

The homeless in Victoria differ from those in suburban areas, she said. Families dominate the homeless population.

Because of the increase of the working poor, more people in the surrounding 11 counties are in need of food, said Robin Cadle, Food Bank of the Golden Crescent executive director, a nonprofit organization.

The gap has widened, creating a large group of those classified as the working poor, she said.

This has been caused largely by the oil and gas boom in the area, which has created a double-edge sword-type situation, Pickens said.

The increase in jobs and people moving to the area started to limit the amount of housing and increase the demand. As the boom continued, prices of what was once considered affordable housing skyrocketed, Pickens said.

Many people are often faced with the tough decision of how to spend what little money they have, she said. Sometimes, that includes food.

"You don't have to be homeless to be hungry," she said.

From Jan. 1 though Oct. 31, more than 780,000 pounds of food from the food bank has gone to Victoria County, the largest county in its coverage area.

Matagorda County received the next largest amount of food during that time. It received more than 540,000 pounds, followed by Wharton and Lavaca, each with more than 212,000 pounds.

The state alone is ranked among the top 12 in terms of food insecurity - lack of food because of money and other resources - and second in the number of food-insecure households, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The definition of what is considered homeless has changed, Pickens said.

Those considered homeless are now also people who live in areas that are not safe, including homes with no running water, or the lack of an actual residence, like a garage, or they live with another family.

Pickens said many people have misperceptions about residents they consider "living off the system."

Pickens said that those people aren't living but merely surviving.

In the food bank's 11-county coverage area, it distributed about 3.3 million pounds of food last year. This year's total has already surpassed that number, Cadle said. She expects it to pass 3.5 million pounds.

The need has risen, and while everyone wishes it would fall, they don't expect it to happen any time soon.

The need is always greater around the end of the year, said Rachel Jones, Food Bank development and programs. There are programs at schools that feed qualified students, but once schools go on break, parents have more meals to provide.Pickens said there are more than 800 Victoria school district students considered homeless.



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