Shattering the "drifter" stereotype of homeless people, a survey by the International Union of Gospel missions finds that 60 percent of those staying in its "rescue missions" are local residents.
The organization reports its shelters are housing 20,000 homeless people.Many "are hometown folks," says the Rev. Stephen Burger, IUGM executive director. He says 25 percent have lived all their lives in the places where they're sheltered and 60 percent have lived there at least six months.
"The idea that missions draw homeless to a community doesn't stand up under these facts," he says, adding that most of them "are community residents in need."
The survey also finds a growing proportion of younger people among the homeless, with increases in the past year in every under-45 age category. More than 50 percent of them now are under age 35.
Those between 26 and 35 comprised the largest block, 28 percent, with 36- to 45-year-olds next to it, making up 24 percent. Those under 18 rose slightly to 9 percent, while those over 65 fell from 6 to 4 percent.