WACO -- There are more than 3.5 million homeless in the U.S., a number that continues to grow in this struggling economy. In McLennan County alone, nearly a third of the population is living at or below the poverty level.
More than 850 people in Waco are chronically homeless, and nearly 28 percent are living in poverty. That's not a burden they share alone. A Baylor University study shows it costs more than $39,000 for Waco to support a person in poverty, including emergency room care, issues related to police and shelter.
Dr. Kenneth Moerbe with the HOT Homeless Coalition says, "It has to do with government; it has to do with business. All of this has impact on, for instance, the economic development of Waco. When you have this kind of poverty in the city, it has an impact on employment, it has an impact on education."
Homeless America reports it costs $8,000 a year for a family on food stamps. That's not including costs for feeding the homeless. Caritas is one of the many places people can go in McLennan County to get assistance. They serve nearly 400 people a day, costing about $100 per family of four.
Baylor students are sending their grievances to senators in Texas in an effort to develop legislation to improving the situation. One volunteer wrote a letter saying Texas one of the hungriest states, and the issue can't be pushed aside. "I love living here, but I also think there are aspects being ignored to the detriment of our people," said Ellie Lewis.
This week is Homelessness Awareness Week. For a list of events, see the attachment below.