Homelessness in America has been called “one of the most misunderstood and least documented social policy issues of our time” by Political Science Quarterly.

Today, an estimated 3.5 million people experience homelessness annually in this country and 1.35 million of those are children. More than half of all homeless families have been homeless for six months or longer. According to the Institute for Children and Poverty, the average age of a homeless person in the United States is nine. Across the nation, experts estimate that in any given community, one percent of the population is “at risk” of becoming homeless.

Lawrence University will examine the issue of homelessness and the ways people can make a difference toward solving the problem in the panel presentation “Homelessness Today, Housing Tomorrow” Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Underground Coffeehouse of the Lawrence Memorial Union. The program and is free and open to the public.

Sharing their perspectives on the issue will be Debra Cronmiller, director of the Fox Valley Emergency Shelter in Appleton, who will discuss the extent of the homelessness situation locally and the efforts being made to address the situation in the Fox Valley area; Ed Shurna, the executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, who will outline the coalition’s work and the importance of community efforts to combat homelessness; Larry Hamilton, a former homeless person himself who is now an activist in Chicago working on behalf of rights for the homeless; and Jeff Newton, a volunteer for the Chicago Coalition who is currently homeless and who will offer a first-person account of the challenges facing a homeless person and just how susceptible many people are to falling into that lifestyle.

The program is sponsored by the Lawrence University Volunteer and Community Service Center with support from the Class of 1965 Student Activity Fund.