In 2003, the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty found children under the age of 18 accounted for 39 percent of the homeless population; 42 percent of these children were under the age of five.
The same study found 25 percent of homeless were ages 25 to 34 and the percentage of homeless persons aged 55 to 64 is 6 percent. While it is an increasing problem, there are many factors into why people end up on the street.
Two trends are largely responsible for the rise in homelessness over the past 20 to 25 years -- lack of affordable rental housing and a simultaneous increase in poverty.
Recently, foreclosures have increased the number of people who experience homelessness. The National Coalition for the Homeless released a report showing there was a 32 percent spike in the number of foreclosures between April 2008 and April 2009.
Since the start of the recession, 6 million jobs have been lost. In May 2009, the official unemployment rate was 9.4 percent.
Homelessness and poverty are inextricably linked. Difficult choices must be made when limited resources cover only some of the necessities. Often it is housing, which absorbs a high proportion of income that must be dropped.
A poor person is essentially an illness, an accident or a paycheck away from living on the streets.
In 2008, 11.7 percent of Putnam County residents were living below the poverty level with 14.9 percent of children living in poverty. There are 2,500 residents getting food stamps.
The group of DePauw students brought their San Diego experience back home and together with local high school students, they hosted an interactive event "Home Sweet Home: An Exploration of the Facets of Homelessness."
The program highlighted issues of youth and adult homelessness in Putnam County and the state. Those in attendance were divided into three groups -- low income, shelter or on the street. Food was served according to income. Those in the shelter received a hot meal; those with low income received a brown paper bag with a sack of oranges, loaf of bread, block of cheese and half-gallon of milk; and those living "on the street" received a brown paper bag with a sandwich, crackers and a drink.
Alyce West, director of Putnam County's Away Home Shelter, spoke to the group about what the Away Home does for people without a place to stay.
"We help them find work," she said. "We give them a warm place to sleep."
The Away Home can serve up to 36 people and currently has 20 residents. The people do their own cooking, dishes, laundry and have a curfew.
"There are rules," West said. "You always have to follow rules in life."
Mary Mountz, organizer of the non-food pantry at St. Andrews Church, also spoke to the crowd. She said the pantry helps people on food stamps, who cannot buy paper products, household cleaners, etc. with the food stamps.
"We began a year ago and have helped more than 2,000 families," she said.
In addition, Mountz noted some people living "on the street" have college degrees yet are without jobs. They have just been victims of circumstance.
To help the homeless in Putnam County, contact the Away Home Shelter at 653-9734; the St. Andrew's non-food pantry at 653-3921; or the Putnam County Emergency Food Pantry at 653-3011.