Cited on Survey as a Factor Causing
By RICK ALM -
The Kansas City Star Staff Writer
Date: 03/13/98 22:15
A survey of more than 1,000 homeless Americans found that 18 percent
believe gambling was a factor that led to their current plight. The Kansas City-based
International Union of Gospel Missions conducted the survey last fall at homeless shelters
in more than 40 U.S. cities, including Kansas City, St. Louis and Springfield.
Phil Rydman, a spokesman for the group, said the admitted
unscientific survey made no effort to query homeless shelter occupants about other reasons
for their situation. "Gambling was a factor, but maybe not the only factor in their
becoming homeless," Rydman said. The Rev. Stephen Burger, executive director of the
250-mission organization, said sharp increases in the number of clients talking about
gambling problems led the group for the first time to ask about gambling. "Up until
the last couple of years, we were not getting the kind of anecdotal information that would
give a reason to ask," Burger said, "Make no mistake about it...gambling
The survey was released late Thursday in Washington, D.C., by Sen.
Dan Coats, an Indiana Republican who is an advocate for the homeless. A spokesman said
Friday that Coats will provide the results to the National Gambling Impact Study
Commission. The federal panel meets next week in Boston as part of its
two-year study and
report to Congress on the effects of legalized gambling in America. Its agenda Tuesday
focuses exclusively on the effect of lotteries.
Burger said the group in recent years has taken a
stance in seeking to influence public policy. "Most people think of the homeless as a
white, 55-year-old alcoholic," he said, adding that 75 percent of mission occupants
are 35 or younger, and both their number and diversity are growing....
Burger predicted another upsurge this year when
restrictions in many states cut off an increasing number of recipients from public aid
programs. "The last few years we have determined we need to tell our
Burger said. "Rescue missions are a critical part of what's been
happening in the
community." Nationwide, the group's affiliate members manage about 30,000 beds.
"We're full all the time," Burger said.