Homeless people were the topic for United Methodist Women when members of six Morrow County churches enjoyed a salad luncheon at Trinity United Methodist Church in Mount Gilead.
The speaker was Vickie Adkins, a Community Outreach Staff member of the WIC program (Women Infants and Children) for Morrow and Delaware counties.
Adkins said that there is no actual count of homeless in Morrow County. She said she and others often refer to them as “houseless” rather than homeless in Morrow County.
They may be “couch surfing” at a friend or relative’s home, they may live in tents or barns on acquaintances’ property. However, it is not their home and they are aware they are in another person’s space.
In any case they often don’t have electricity or running water and often bunk in cars or campers, so their hygiene may not be the best. They try to keep their “houseless” situation a secret as long as possible.
The official Morrow County Job and Family Services statistics show only five homeless families in the county. However, women often live in places they don’t want to live due to the fear of losing their children.
Adkins has a special place in her heart for these people since she herself experienced a time of homeless and houseless living. The Cardington High School grad recounted how she was a teen mother and experienced domestic violence. She left her abusive husband in Texas and returned to Morrow County with her children.
Adkins said she will forever be grateful to her parents and the community for supporting her and stepping in to help in her time of greatest need. She said it is important for her to see the women she works with at WIC succeed. She works with about 100 at any one time and they are often single mothers. They are usually embarrassed about their circumstances.
Work, adequate childcare and transportation are very real challenges for men and women in homeless situations, Adkins said. Even in Morrow County rent is sometimes as much as 50 percent of their income when it should not be more than 30 percent.
To complicate matters, they don’t want to talk about their homeless situation or ask for help. They often lack self-respect or are afraid to ask for help getting transportation to a doctor, a job or to counseling.
Several asked what we can do to help these people. Adkins answered that it’s most important to use words of caring and to try to understand and encourage.
“You may meet them in your food pantry, at the grocery, at the veterans’ office or at school,” Adkins said. “Use words that are loving and kind to encourage them.”
Adkins has worked with WIC 17 years and she sees one of the most important things she can do is to encourage women to get an education and at least get their GED if they didn’t finish high school. She also encourages them in the use of coupons and saving for their families.
WIC is available to low and moderate income women to provide support if they are pregnant, recently delivered, breastfeeding or have children under five. Fathers can also bring children to apply for WIC. The purpose is to help with the children who are at risk in their nutrition. Referrals to other health and human services are also given.
WIC in Morrow County is at 619 W. Marion Road, Suite B, Mount Gilead or call 419-947-8010.