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....

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Bureaucracy Overload Burdens Homeless Parents

For anyone who thinks being homeless is a snap, especially those responsible for dependent children, think again!

A colleague who assists homeless families with education and other needs, her official job is the school district's homeless liaison, told me a story yesterday that astounded even me.

A Native American man had 2 children. His wife was gone, and he was doing the best he could to raise his kids. He had a decent job, but after multiple school calls--the routine kind: kids sick, missing lunch, need something or the other--he lost his job. The all-too-typical laundry list of crises hit them: transportation, health, nutrition, keeping their danger level at "orange" or above on a regular basis.

Their house, in the Phoenix area, was ramshackle at best. But, with tremendous help from the school and with his extraordinary effort, he kept a roof over their heads.

Several years ago he applied to his tribe for housing assistance. Somehow they "lost" the application, so his situation languished. He mentioned it to the liaison and she inquired on his behalf. "Oh no," replied the bureaucrat, "no application by that name is on file."

My friend isn't the type to take no for an answer, so she kept prodding, going higher and higher in the food chain. Finally, paydirt! It seems this dad had applied for housing, and he was eligible. The day after they moved out of their shack, a CONDEMNED sign was slapped on the house.

My friend told me about the different agencies this dad had to negotiate with over his years of homelessness. City, town, tribe, school, state, feds...I couldn't name them all, nor could I, a fairly savvy navigator, deal with the multiple layers without going even crazier than I am now.

How quick we are to dismiss homeless parents, or single adults, as incompetent. I've done it myself. Kudos to my friend for her steadfast efforts.

Seems to me it's time to give parents, especially those grappling with homelessness and poverty, the credit they deserve, or offer them "credit" in the form of supportive benefit of the doubt. What they need is the hand up, not a kick in the head.

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