Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
WyBETT   Wyomingites for a Better Economy Today and Tomorrow
 Gambling 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 destroys lives."

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 stronger public 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 tightening welfare 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 story," 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.