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Saturday, 11 December 2010

Former Star Athletes Prove that Anyone Can Become Homeless

 by Rich Lombino & Elizabeth Lombino


Anyone can become homeless. Especially now in these incredibly challenging economic times, many of us are living paycheck-to-paycheck. It is difficult to save money and even more impossible to plan for unforeseen circumstances that could demand a stronger financial burden. We are all at risk. Even those of us who are seemingly financially stable and who have ample support.
Back in July, we wrote about "Sugar Ray" Williams, a 10-year veteran of the NBA who is currently homeless and living in his car. Sugar Ray played basketball in the late 70s to mid 80s, and although the salaries were not as astronomically high as they are now, he had fame, fortune and potentially endless resources available to him. Yet even with all of this "cushion," he is homeless.
We also highlighted several other former athletes who have succumbed to the threat of poverty and homelessness. Now, yet another former athlete can be added to this list.
Former World Middleweight boxing champion Iran "The Blade" Barkley is living in a hotel in the Bronx. He had a 17-year boxing career in the 80s and 90s before retiring in 1999. Barkley made $5 million during his career. Until recently, he was living in his childhood apartment with his niece. When he was unable to contribute to the household financially, he was locked out. Now he relies on the support of some close friends to continue to stay in a low cost hotel for another night.
His story is not at all uncommon.  Except that he is a retired successful athlete.
This is just another extreme example of how close any one of us is to the reality of poverty and homelessness. There are countless individuals around the country who are dangerously close to homelessness. Unemployment rates continue to rise, wages remain way too low, and health care and child care costs remain incredibly high. These are the obvious examples of the real dangers of homelessness. The stories of The Blade, Sugar Ray, and others prove that even those who are seemingly financially stable can also be in danger of becoming homeless.
We continue to assert that perhaps homelessness is not solely an issue of finances after all? Perhaps the issue truly is deeper and speaks of the necessity of a strong support system, access to adequate and effective resources, intervention during crisis situations, and consistent and supportive treatment of underlying issues. Advocates have long been arguing that these are the real issues at play. We need real changes so none of us is at risk of becoming homeless.
Please join us in urging HUD to focus on Homeless Prevention Services to ensure that more people get help BEFORE they are homeless.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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