Denton and UNT look to help city’s homeless population
Paul Wedding / Staff Writer
The number of homeless people in Denton has been steadily rising for several years now and many in Denton want to help address the growing problem.
While the Denton County Homeless Coalition’s point-in-time report listed just over 300 people as homeless, Our Daily Bread, a community soup kitchen in Denton, has 985 guests categorized as homeless.
“Poverty grows with the population,” Our Daily Bread executive director Millie Bell said. “We have found that when there is a heavy population increase, there is an increase in poverty as well.”
One of the major contributing factors to the rise in homelessness is unemployment. According to the point-in-time reports, this reason for homelessness went up from 20 percent to 63 percent between 2009 and 2011. There was also an increase in inability to pay rent or mortgage from 15 percent to 40 percent. The Denton County Homeless Coalition has said the data for the 2015 report is still being tabulated.
UNT has had many problems with a growth in homeless students as well and is looking for solutions to help students who can’t afford basic necessities. Some of the steps UNT has taken including holding a food pantry in the Dean of Students office and offering references to housing assistance and food, clothing and rental assistance.
Associate Dean of Students Rodney Mitchell is currently putting together a task force in order to assist students in need.
“We want to make sure that there are services available that can support students and educate the campus community,” he said.
Mitchell said that these students’ situations may not match what many consider homeless. They may be staying at a friend’s place or sleeping in their cars, but these situations could change at any time.
Myles Wood, the assistant program coordinator at Our Daily Bread, was homeless before the kitchen helped get him back on his feet. He cited mental health issues as well as inability to pay for tuition as the reasons for his situation. He said the cost of college and the debt that it brings are large contributing factors toward homelessness.
Art junior Jed Beck has known many students who are struggling to pay for housing and have had to resort to sleeping in the library before.
“For some art students, it’s like you’re paying for housing or you’re paying for art supplies,” he said. “UNT gives a lot of attention to a lot of its programs. Financial aid is not one of them. It’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not on the top of their list.”
There are many local shelters and soup kitchens that are not only providing food and shelter for these people, but also providing them the resources to help them back onto their feet. Our Daily Bread offers showers, laundry, and free use of computers and telephones for homeless and transients to apply for jobs.
Mary Wilson, one of the many homeless individuals in Denton, is currently living in a yellow tent off of Bonnie Brae and University Drive with her dog, Sprocket, and cat, Itsy. She has been living in Denton since 2004. She said after she lost her job as a pet groomer in Dallas, she lost the will to keep looking for employment and pay for her apartment.
“I’ve paid deposits pretty much all my life,” she said. “I can only talk myself into giving everything that I make to someone so many times.”
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