Although creating awareness was a major goal of the afternoon, another was to break stereotypes that characterize the homeless, she said.
A person without a place to live isn’t necessarily out on the street in shabby clothes, asking for cash.
“We do a good job in the community providing services, but just because they’re not on a park bench, doesn’t mean they’re not there,” Burke said.
In many cases, a landlord will raise the cost of monthly rent, driving people out of their homes, Miller said. The decrease in job opportunities and inflation of prices has a significant effect on the issue, she said.
Although not present at Sunday’s event, Maureen Bradish, director of the recently closed Family Promise of the North Country, spoke in the past on a lack of affordable housing being a major cause of homelessness.
Family Promise, which served homeless families by providing overnight stays with volunteers at local houses of worship, also helped participants find accommodations, jobs and sort out other issues.
That program, which lost vital funding and was forced to shut down late last year, augmented the Social Services program that provides temporary housing for those in need at low-cost motels.
“A small twist of fate, and it can be any one of us,” Burke said of becoming homeless.
Miller said the community wears blinders when it comes to the reality of the issue here — people don’t recognize it or ignore the issue.
It is those blinders she said she wants to get rid of.
Not many turned out for the panel discussion. And few were acting as participants during the early hours of Box City, but those who did perused a “Things to Think About” list and played the role of being homeless. Different scenarios were detailed with extra complications many suffer with, such as mental illness or health issue.