Dr. Stephanie Bechard nominated for exceptional work with area homeless students in Franklin County.

Stephanie Bechard nominated for exceptional work with area homeless students in Franklin County.

The Hope Award spotlights work with students in Franklin County and the challenges of homelessness in a rural community. Poverty is a persistent problem in rural America. The national poverty rate is 14.5 percent, whereas the poverty rate in rural areas is 16.1 percent. Perhaps most staggering is the problem of child poverty. Sixty-four percent of rural counties had high child poverty in 2010.

One of the key differences between rural and urban homelessness is a lower capacity in the homeless service provider infrastructure in rural areas as opposed to urban areas. Additionally, homeless people in rural areas tend to be homeless for shorter periods of time and are less likely to have health insurance and access to medical care. As noted earlier, other predictors of homelessness, such as substance abuse and mental illness, contribute to rural homelessness. Those who experience rural homelessness report higher rates of alcohol abuse and domestic violence, but lower rates of mental illness and drug abuse than the urban homeless population. However, more recent research suggests that, when looking at substance use trends for the entire population, there is no difference in reported substance abuse between rural and urban residents.

There are numerous barriers to serving rural homeless people, including a negligible amount of available affordable housing, limited transportation methods, and that federal priorities and programs tend to be awarded in criteria that favor urban areas. Additionally, because rural areas face persistent poverty, a high number of people are continually at-risk of homelessness.

Due to the aforementioned barriers, one of the most important strategies in ending rural homelessness is prevention. Preventing the occurrence of homelessness is the most economic way of ending homelessness. For communities that have limited funding providing people at risk of homelessness with prevention services, such as paying back rent or utilities and case management, can significantly decrease the number of people moving into homelessness.

Dr. Bechard is the supervisor of Parents as Teachers. As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Parents as Teachers (PAT), a voluntary family education and support program, can assist you in giving your baby the best possible start in life.

Other Nominees Include;
JEANNIE JENKINS, MONICA ASSAREH, JENNY ULRICH, LINDSEY JASPER, ANITA STUDDARD, ERIC GRAINGER, CONNIE JUENGEL JULIE CONNER, JUDY STRAATMANN, EMILY SHARRATT, CAROL LABOUBE

 

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