invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 3 MILLION kids are without homes. H-O-M-E-L-E-S-S Kids. I don't get it. Are we willing to discard these kids? Not me. So this blog will relentlessly focus on this issue, hoping to light a spark to fuel a compassion epidemic. Chime in, argue, but do something....

Sunday, December 30, 2007

When the World Shuts Down

Julianna's Family "Portrait"

From right before Christmas (for some, closer to before Thanksgiving) until the week after New Years' life shuts down for many working people.

Try to connect with someone at a social service agency--anyone with any senority is gone for the holiday. Shelter staff cover this crazy time the best they can, often unable to do their "real" job because they're sorting piles of donated Barbie dolls and stuffed animals.

Homelessness continues, in a particularly cruel way, because as most people are immersed in the distorted excesses of the holidays--more of the commercial event and little-to-none of the blessed one--few non-homeless people even think of those in a homeless situation.

For homeless families, teens on their own, and single adults, this time often brings up reminders of holidays past, some good, some not. In addition to the challenge of providing basics of food and shelter for their kids, parents struggle with painful inadequacy of not being able to afford gifts for their loved ones.

My joy as I've been traveling is to spend time with formerly homeless families who have cobbled together enough to bring the spirit of Christmas into their humble abodes. It's a refreshing change from the "norm" of holiday activities--to be around people genuinely appreciative of what they have, where they live, and the people with whom they live.

I spent last Christmas with Melissa and her kids in their former FEMA trailer that she was able to buy. I witnessed this tenacious family meld into the spirit of love, decorating their first Christmas tree in their "new" home, mindful of where they've been on the journey in and out of homelessness.

This year I marveled at "Julianna and Company's" tree--for its beauty and the bargain she got on it. Her determination to make their cramped 3-bedroom apartment into a place of celebration and peace yielded amazing results which her kids truly appreciated.

Seems to me that our "less fortunate" brothers and sisters are in fact the most fortunate, rich in what really counts. When will we realize that capitulating to commerical powers that distort the meaning of Christmas is not the way to celebrate the birth of a baby to a homeless family...?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Point Needs Making

One favorite blog I regularly read, Apesma's Lament, more often than not makes the points that I'd like to make about homelessness. THIS BLOG IS NOT FOR THE EASILY-OFFENDED, or for people who can't handle street talk. But it is for someone who wants to cut through the crap about homelessness...which is what the 12/27 entry does.

Tim, despite his vulgar descriptions and expressions, gets it. And I understand his propensity to vulgarities, given his long time labors as an activist. Dealing with crap, and worse, makes it easy to use crap-filled language.

Seems to me that instead of me trying to make some brilliant point that illustrates Tim's message, I'd be wiser to suggest you read his blog if you dare.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Can't Help But Wonder...

My perspective is different than the average American, whatever that means any more. I look at the extremes of wealth and poverty with a somewhat jaded eye, knowing more about the effects of the extremes on the bottom end than the top.

That being said, I can't help but read this op-ed submission with agreement as to the absurdity of income levels of Wall Street's leaders who seem to have led this country's, and global, economy down the toilet.
As millions of US households struggle with unmanageable mortgage payments, falling home values and foreclosure, Wall Street executives are awarding themselves record year-end bonuses.

Major US banks are reporting billions of dollars in write-offs from bad investments and double-digit losses in stock value. Nevertheless, among the four largest investment firms—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns—bonuses amount to nearly $30 billion.

You see, my thoughts tend to drift to the "have-nots" who have not even a place to call home.

The kids who played with these stuffed animals are now getting closer and closer to the abyss of the worst kind of homelessness that families experience--having absolutely no place to stay at any time.

Imagine, if you will, hearing mom and dad stress out because they know their motel room costs more than they can pay, and their city has no place for them to turn for emergency shelter. That stress pours out, tainting family life with a toxic residue that poisons the kids as well as the adults.

If this family can't soon find a home they will slip further into the vortex of homelessness. It shreds any vestige of "normal" family life that exists. It causes people to make mistakes, some serious, as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Parents slip into despair because they can't provide the basics for their children. Kids act out, knowing their lives are not anything like they were, and they become alienated from friends and isolated from normal childhood experiences.

What would one of these over-compensated money people say to the kids who had to leave their toys behind in the home their family lived in for the past 5 years, paying rent and caring for each other, when the landlord refused to make needed repairs and the city condemned the property?

Seems to me that real national leaders would realize that allowing out-of-control wealth building is not good for anyone, including the overly-wealthy who have more money than God. But changing things would turn today's economy on its ear. How bad could that be?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Basic Questions for our Presidential Candidates...

Everyone, it seems, is talking politics. I might as well get into the act, perhaps spurring some thoughtful discussion before presidential primary ballots are cast. Any readers with connections to campaigns that could forward these questions, go for it!

Questions from a long-time homelessness activist:
  1. What are your thoughts on the current issue of expanding HUD's definition of homelessness, and thereby their mission, to include families and teens on their own?
  2. What will your approach be to ensure safe, decent, affordable housing for everyone?
  3. What steps would you have the federal government take to avoid a repeat, or continuation, of the subprime debacle?
  4. What do you think should be done for families who are in severe financial crisis and at risk of homelessness because of this mess?
  5. How would you guide this nation's approach to easing and eradicating homelessness?
  6. What has your personal experience been with homelessness--e.g., contact with homeless children/adults, someone you know has experienced homelessness, shelter volunteer, etc.?
  7. What is your assessment of this nation's homelessness--causes and solutions?
  8. What steps would you take to establish a federal commitment to truly end the nightmare of homelessness?
  9. What would you say to homeless adults, children and teens about their predictament and your commitment to ease it?
  10. How would you explain the extreme differences between those who have extraordinarily extravagant housing and those who have none?

These are serious questions posed to serious candidates. IHK would love to share space with candidates and to invite homeless adults, teens and children to share their views. Have at it!

Seems to me that it's way past time to figure out basics in this interminable campaign--basics that matter to a growing category of people in cities, towns and rural areas across the nation. Instead of artificial standards that really don't measure the candidates' ability to improve this country, let's use some authentic gauges to enhance quality of life across the land.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Painful Alternative for Sleep

Having spent last night trying to sleep on a chair next to the hospital bed of a friend who had surgery, I reflected back to my days/nights running a shelter when our overflow crowd was offered the option of sleeping in the dining room.

We couldn't let folks sleep on the floor for many reasons. So we offered tables/chairs as an option, with pillows and blankets if we still had them available.

Now, being inside is certainly better than being outside, especially in the worst of IL weather. But after trying to sleep last night on a chair that seemed potentially comfortable, I'd have to issue apologies to the guys who faced plastic dining room chairs night after night.

Seems to me that before non-homeless people judge homeless persons who "self-medicate" you should walk a mile in their ill-fitting shoes or sleep a night as they do on the ground, on dining room chairs, or on the lumpy mattresses that pass for shelter beds--and then decide if you too would find some way to numb the pain.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Even in Paradise

Homelessness, including that scourged visible kind, is alive and well even in Scottsdale, my temporary abode. The federal campaign to "end chronic homelessness" spews buzz words, slogans, and statistics and ignores families. And despite claims to the contrary, the results with their target population--visibly homeless adults--seem to be less than stellar.

With millions of decorative lights giving this semi-tropical paradise a festive glow, seeing a black man (people of color are fairly scarce here, except those who provide services) in a posh neighborhood far from any shelter pushing a grocery cart teeming with his stuff gave me pause. So did the guy sleeping on the park bench as luxury cars zoomed past him...and the guy awakened by an errant disc golfer's drive (not mine!) at a park...and the woman lugging her belongings near the high-end shopping center....

"No room in the inn" is an oft-used phrase at this time of year. It has a sweet, sacred meaning when talking about the Holy Family. We utter it, and seldom ponder the meaning. That family was homeless. So are lots more today, in the richest country (not counting the subprime fallout) in the history of the world. And we continue to "grow" homelessness by ignoring families and youth.

We've gotten used to homelessness, if not outright comfortable with it. An article from the Arizona Republican gives a fairly comprehensive picture of homeless life outside Phoenix, and it's not pretty. The sole reference to children/youth points to 1 out of 20 students in Kingman's school district identified as homeless. No mention of the fact that the area has no shelters and few services for families....

Last night I drove past a pet resort, with more lights than Chicago's well-lit Michigan Avenue. Pets deserve a Merry Christmas...and all the comfort that money can buy, and at this place it takes a lot of money. I guess it's easier to care for pets than people.

Seems to me we've let ourselves get way off track as human beings. Our choices are to continue humming "there's no place like home for the holidays" ignoring the reality of homelessness all around us--in every community--or to put our resources to use to line up with our professed religious beliefs. In the words of an overused campaign (with apologies to non-christians),

What Would Jesus Do?
Here are my humble suggestions for starters:
  • Look at your BLESSINGS and figure out how to generously share them with your favorite local charity or HEAR US;

  • Share your time and talents with a local program that helps homeless families, teens or adults;

  • Send a Piggies fax to your local congressperson urging them to support the HEARTH Act, which expands HUD's definition of homelessness;

  • Get a copy of the short documentary, My Own Four Walls, watch it and share it.

  • Read the book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness, and use your enlightenment to brighten this world....

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sort of Obscene....

Every year at this time a couple of things happen. One is a special holiday which coincides with the winter solstice, National Homeless Persons' Memorial Day. I find the day a whole lot less commercialized, well, perhaps obscure would be a better description, than Christmas.

The other event is the annual drum roll from our nation's capitol as the HUD homeless grants are announced. The lingo goes something like "this year, President Doe is pleased to announce the highest funding ever to address homelessness...blah, blah, blah...."

This year is no different. The benevolent leader bestows the crumbs from the table on the poor homeless people.

Pardon my cynicism, but the phrase "too little too late" comes to mind. Having been a part of the HUD funding/feeding trough for many years, and not being on the take now, I can say a few things that need to be said about the process and the needs.

The history of modern homelessness is a fascinating subject, and serious research would bear out the points made in the report by the Western Region Advocacy Project. The bottom line: massive federal cut-backs in housing assistance from the early 1980s fueled an ever-growing rate of homelessness, compounded by a round of social service cuts and economic catastrophes over the past 20+ years, not to mention, well, I will, lack of things like health care, living wage jobs and affordable housing.

I want to reiterate a point made in the WRAP report. We have demonized homelessness in this country, blaming the victim, while going on our merry way thinking the government will solve this complex and entrenched issue. Lest anyone be thinking that homeless people are demons, I urge you to try to survive on the streets for even a short time and report back on how easy and pleasant it is. It's not.

And shelter/service programs typically face painful uncertainties as their most vulnerable funding hangs on the precipice of Congress' budget "process" which add up to a mere $8 BILLION of earmarks, which, compared to the $1.5 billion to care for the 3 million-plus homeless adults and children in our country seems a little distorted....

Instead of solutions, more fall into the abyss, victims of the latest subprime mortage debacle just showing up on the radar. Tent Cities spring up in communities ill-equipped to deal with the exploding homeless population. And what HUD doesn't want to talk about are the numbers of families losing their homes. Nah, that would sound bad.

So, good people in this land, and plenty are out there, at least do something--start homeless shelters, rustle up volunteers, put bandages on the wound of homelessness. They wait for the government to respond, which it does by scraping crumbs from the table and bragging about it.

Seems to me that we could all use a dose of reality. Homelessness isn't fun--it tends to be deadly. I think of babies of homeless parents I've known...babies who have died because of poverty and homelessness. On this day of remembering homeless people who have gone to the big home in the sky I take a deep breath and hope we can one day wake up from this nightmare.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Giant Leads/Leaves Us

Naperville's Bob Jordan was a giant.

This little guy who passed away last Saturday (12/15/07, ironically the birthday of my friend, the deceased Dr. Holly Kabakovich) was one of the finest human beings I knew.

What made Bob so special was that he never acted special. He just made everyone feel like they were special. Especially those not considered special by most people.

I knew "Lion Bob" as a volunteer at the homeless shelter I ran for years in Aurora. He'd show up with his church, St. Timothy Lutheran, and proceed to instill a glow of hospitality everywhere he went. He could talk to anyone--and did--as he distributed toiletries or handled the seemingly endless sign-in list.

Bob, with his 2 prosthetic legs, coke-bottle thick glasses, and short less-than-svelte body had more charisma than anyone I knew. He backed it up with lots of hard work and plenty of smarts. I don't know how many committees he WORKED on, or how many languages he spoke, but Bob was about making a difference with his life, despite the hand he was dealt, including the worst that diabetes can throw at a person.

I worked alongside Bob at the Naperville Noon Lions' funnel cake booth at the Naperville Rib Fest, a huge (gazillion people come to this!) event where the Lions sell enough funnel cakes to retire the U.S. debt. Bob stood and tirelessly handled the cashbox all day long, combining correct change and a great big thank-you to hundreds of customers. I never saw him sit, nor did I hear anything but enthusiastic comments from him.

Bob's obituary fails to do justice to this giant. He towers like a redwood over the rest of us mere mortals. His wife--the love of his life, Peggy Martin, knows that.

Seems to me that filling Bob's shoes will be an impossible task. He'll be a powerful reminder to the rest of us that we have lots to do and excuses don't cut it. Farewell, Lion Bob, my friend....

Looking at Progress (?) In DC???

Six months ago people thought it was hopeless to try to turn Congress around on the issue of the homelessness definition. For those just joining us, the issue has been that HUD, the federal agency overseeing housing and homelessness, has for the past several years focused on "chronic homelessness" which greatly limits help for kids and families (Congressional Quarterly article).

Word from "a little bird" in DC indicates forward movement for those of us who believe we need to address homeless families and unaccompanied teens STAT!

HEAR US has been part of this campaign, with our Piggies Action, a simple way to nudge your congresspersons. Well, the piggies get the message across. More people are needed to take a few moments to do this little activity.


Seems to me that we're due for a victory for the little people. Over nation's 1.5 million homeless kids in our country sure qualify as little people. When we can start caring about "the least among us" (not that I consider homeless kids "the least" but they sure lack power and importance) then maybe we're ready to turn a corner on this compassion epidemic I keep hoping for....

Photos c Pat Van Doren, used with permission

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holiday Greetings in Casino-land

You can almost hear the jingle of sleigh bells in Reno, the "biggest little city in the world," as the city inspector added his off-red decoration to this nondescript house which had been home to one family for the past 5 years.

The bad news was delivered about 10 in the morning, and the mom, dad and 6 kids, including an infant, had to vacate by 4 that day. And because they have no option, they ended up in a no-tell-motel, 2 adjacent, but not adjoining rooms. A social service agency helped them by paying for the first 2 weeks. Mom's the full-time breadwinner, but their meager finances would be devastated by the $400 a week for their rooms, not including the storage rental for their stuff.

The landlord failed to make repairs, and now this family and a single guy who had just moved into this place are all homeless in time for the holidays. Despite what the definition of homelessness is according to HUD, this family is HOMELESS. And, despite common thinking, Reno has NO family shelter other than a 3-family set-up in a church that has a waiting list of over 40 families.

Pause for a moment to consider the reality of 2 adults and 6 kids in 2 little motel rooms with a microwave and small refrigerator for "kitchen" use. Think of what foods can be nutritionally served with that arrangement. Even thinking about the space issues makes me cringe. Yes, they're better off than if they lived on the streets, but not by much. The stress level with this family is devastating. I've spent time with them.

Now, this isn't some third world country or state. They're in Nevada, where casino profits are at a record high. I dunno, call me stupid, but with PROFITS for these gambling enterprises topping over $2 BILLION, it seems like it's not for lack of money floating around Reno. Maybe it's a lack of asking the right people....

Seems to me someone would be able to cough up a little financial assistance to help this family have a merry Christmas. And, please don't think that means toys and electronic games. THEY NEED A PLACE TO CALL HOME!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

It's Easy to Understand...

Sometimes I struggle to understand how people with so much can seem to care so little for those with nothing.

But, as I spend a week in the Atlanta area with my parents, I feel conflicted with what I have and what I know so many lack. My struggle is enhanced by the little amount of time I have to even think, much less act, on what is important to me.

Atlanta is a a plethora of stores, many upscale, that cater to a shopper's every need. Mega-mansions and gated communities reflect an apparent affluence. Thankfully, a sprinkling of "normal" communities keep it real.

The thermometer is dropping tonight. The freeze warnings are posted. It strikes me that most of those weather service warnings are geared toward plants. Bring in the potted plants, honey, it's gonna get cold. Don't leave the dog out all night. And I'm complaining to myself because my folks like to keep the thermostat cranked up....

Seems to me those of us with abundance move further away from those who suffer without the basics. We're in a different orbit from the family huddled in the back of a van, struggling to find some way to stay warm enough to sleep at least part of the night. Our struggle is to find some way to keep connected with all of our sisters and brothers across the land....It will take more than a national weather service warning.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Slow On the Uptake

I'm not the brightest bulb in the chandelier, but 4 years ago when I encountered a teacher, her husband, and their 2 kids (a high school senior and a 25-year old who had been brain damaged in an accident), and heard how they were illegally evicted by a sleazy predatory lenders, and heard how they tried to get help but no one seemed to care, and heard how this was getting to be a huge problem in certain (read minority and low income) neighborhoods, well, I figured something was wrong.

It was a textbook preview to today's subprime mess. Except today it's not just poor neighborhoods, it's all income levels.

Now I don't want to alarm any of the rocket scientists, er, economists who are looking at this bucket of greedy sleaze, but perhaps they better tip off someone in Washington that homelessness is going to be on the rise, much like, say, a tsunami that builds way out to sea, unbeknownst to most people, and slams the coast hard, doing tremendous damage.

The formula for homelessness is simple, despite what HUD thinks.
Lose home + no home to live in = homeless

HUD, the U.S. Department of HOUSING and Urban Development, prides itself on addressing homelessness. But it doesn't consider families described above as homeless because they were living in a motel room. I can assure you, as one who has been in countless motel rooms of homeless families, they weren't on vacation.

Seems to me that Phil Mangano, the President's point person on homelessness, HUD officials, and members of Congress balking about changing HUD's definition of homelessness should spend some quality time in a cheap motel worrying about how to get a real place to live, how to not lose this place, how to feed your family using a microwave and a box of non-microwave friendly food from a food pantry, how to go to work when you have no money... Never's too depressing to wish on anyone.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Something to Celebrate!

This Saturday in Milton, FL, the University of West Florida will hold a graduation ceremony. Seated among the proud and relieved graduates is M, a determined woman who persisted at college when most people would long ago have run out the door screaming.

M has experienced homelessness with her children for more years than they'd care to count. To categorize the causes, which fail to do justice to the realities they've endured, I'd say poverty, lack of child support, and a repeated, relentless rash of bad luck, including Hurricane Ivan and myriad insane levels of a helping "system" run amok.

M and her 3 children are now the proud owners of a FEMA mobile home, their first home that they've owned. The downside is that FEMA seems to disown any responsibility for possible formaldehyde toxins that may have tainted these humble abodes.

Despite challenges, obstacles, set-backs and disasters too numerous to list, this incredibly focused mom, with a good deal of moral support and pride from her kids, will toss the tassel from one side to the other, hopefully signifying new opportunities for her to contribute her wisdom and common sense. I've seen her working to reach this goal, and she'd put most people, including me, to shame.

Seems to me that M, who managed to attain a college education (and repeatedly make the Dean's or President's list) while balancing family, poverty, hurricanes, homelessness, and bureaucratic obstacles, deserves deep respect of her college community. She sure has mine.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I Guessed Right

Last week in Reno I read their newspaper and contacted the reporter who had written a cold weather/homelessness story. I emailed her to ask about the adequacy of family shelter options in Reno.

She replied (which scores points in my book) and forwarded me the HUD shelter link, which I had already checked to see if I was missing something. HUD's list makes it look like solutions abound. Not.

In this city of over 220,000 people, they have 3 rooms in a church for 3 families. Yup, 3.

They're building a family shelter on the heels of opening the men's shelter. Men first, don't you know.

Not that shelters are the answer, but a family in a crisis needs a place to go, preferably safe and decent, with help to find something permanent.

Yeah, I'm worried about the family I met last week, and the unknown families in Reno and elsewhere that struggle mightily to keep a roof over their heads and to keep the kids from suffering ill effects of this nomadic lifestyle.

I have reason to worry, because HUD, the federal agency charged with providing housing to our brothers and sisters in need across the land, has decided that eliminating visible homelessness is their #1 task. Families, well, they're invisible and besides they don't count. HUD's definition of homelessness is clear about where families stand.

Seems to me that word should get out on Reno's and other communities lack of help for families. It might put a damper on the holidays, but my guess is that families in this situation would find the damper an improvement.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Welcome Blogger Readers!

After a few practice blogs, I'm ready to welcome readers. It's like being by yourself at the far end of the Grand Canyon and hollering into the abyss.

I've debated blogging for a long time. It took me a long time to succumb to getting a MP3 player too. I wanted to be sure that I want to commit to my readers but, more importantly, that I can take the time to properly and passionately represent the population that HEAR US exists for--homeless kids and families.

Seems to me is the title of my musings which hopefully won't all be rants, but I make no promises with this issue. It would be nice to hear an echo or at least another sound so I don't feel so alone out here. So, here we go....

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Clock is Ticking

"We have till Monday (12/10)," said the dad of the family in a Reno motel. He, his wife and their 6 kids, ages 16 to 3 months, lost their house of 5 years when the landlord didn't do essential repairs and the city inspected, slapping "CONDEMNED" stickers all over the house. They had from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. that day to vacate.

Critics can stand down--the family is a good family--mom works, dad works when construction work is available, and provides a sweet level of child care when his wife works.

They've looked at over 30 possible rental sites, but nothing has panned out. Needing 2 motel rooms to accomodate the size of the family costs over $400 a week. So far agencies have helped. After 2 weeks, that assistance is poised to end. What little income/savings this family has will make this unaffordable in a short time. Then what?

This is when the affordable housing arguement becomes reality. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, Reno's got some affordable housing issues. I'd also suspect that a family with 6 kids runs into some veiled discrimination.

So, as the sounds of Christmas spill forth from casinos and shopping malls, this family is counting down to disaster. They're in a motel. HUD doesn't consider them homeless.

They've been evicted from a condemned house. They can't find another place to live. They don't have enough money to stay in this motel for much longer. They don't have family or friends that can take them in.

Seems to me that HUD officials should walk in their shoes or live under their roof. We'd probably have a different definition of homelessness by Christmas.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Across the Miles

Something positive to end the week....

G, M and their 3 kids who lived in a tent for 6 months, finally moved into a house in their little OR town, right before Thanksgiving and just in time to escape the brutal storms that pummelled the west coast (where I was blissfully camping for about a week right before the storms).

I had received an email from a woman, R, in the Chicago area who had lived in her car for a while, some of us call that HOMELESS. She does too. HUD, well that's another story....

She wanted to do something nice at the holiday time, not my favorite time, but I'll get over it. I connected her with J, the social worker who pushed to get the above-mentioned family into a real house (HUD considers their tent housing). J and R exchanged emails and VIOLA! The family is getting lots of good gifts from R, in addition to the scads of essentials and extras that J and her colleagues scouted up.

It was nice to stand back and let it happen. Glad to hear that people are still motivated to do good. Sometimes that gets lost in the shuffle of riches, greed, and bureaucratic insanity, like HUD's insistence that families in motels aren't homeless.

Seems to me that we forget that good overpowers the evil we see every time we turn around. It's good to remember the positive energy that keeps this world spinning in the right direction....

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Clueless In America

South Korea is quite a distance from Reno, NV. So, as I sat last night at dinner talking with the 3-person team of the South Korean MBC news crew, it was fascinating to explore homelessness in S Korea as they queried me about America's homeless adults and children.

The same is true in SK as in the USA--invisible homeless families and teens escape notice, much to their detriment.

They have domestic violence in SK, but women tend to stay with their abusive spouses. They have house fires and other disasters that displace families, forcing them to double-up with relatives or friends.

A few key differences--housing costs are more affordable and medical expenses are far less than this country.

But they talk about greed and extreme wealth there in similar ways that some of us see this pervasive condition in America.

We visited a local shelter program that helps families. They are only able to serve 3 families at a time, and folks can only come in at 6 and must leave in the early morning hours so the church can be used for its daily purpose. Generous volunteers make this stop-gap service possible.

The director said they have a waiting list of 40 families which doesn't include the number of families requesting help that just don't get on the list.

Reno has a new state-of-the-art mens' shelter, part of the federal government's much-heralded "Ten Year Plan to End Homelessness," better known as the clear out the visible homeless adults plan. The feds don't want to include families in their definition of homelessness fearing "opening the floodgates."

Seems to me that in a city of decadent gambling, entertainment and dining, the proverbial crumbs from the tables could be gathered to assist families who live in dreadful conditions, in all forms of homelessness. Instead we're growing a future crop of homeless adults by ignoring families today.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Good Cops, Bad Cops

Reno cops did a good thing and a bad thing yesterday. They gave 2 little boys brand-new cool bikes and helmets. The bad thing is that these boys and their 4 siblings and mom and dad are without a home and living in what would be understated to say cramped quarters in a little motel.

So these boys have cool bikes and no place to ride them, or no place to put them. Dad is going to put the bikes in storage, so these 2 boys may someday get to ride their bikes, but this, I'm afraid, won't happen soon enough.

The family fears having to live in this motel room for long--and after visiting with them yesterday I'd fear that too because you'd go crazy trying to cope with 6 kids...
  • keeping kids under control to not disturb other motel guests,
  • ensuring their kids are safe while around the motel area,
  • working (yes, both parents work),
  • knowing that chances of finding another place are slim-to-none,
  • guiding their kids in coping with this dysfunctional situation,
  • assembling enough money to get another place to live,
  • feeding the kids,
  • making sure homework gets done, and
  • making sure they get to school.

And that's just the top of the list. The family was evicted because the house was condemned. The landlord allegedly didn't make needed repairs to make the house habitable. He also allegedly bought a brand new luxury car for $65k.

And sad things in Reno for families--they have no shelter for families. They have a men's shelter to address the government's chronic homelessness push--taking highly visible homeless adults and dealing with their homelessness.

But the invisible homeless families? Too bad for them....

You can't have your bike and ride it too.