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 24, 2008

New York, New York Could Help Regauge Poverty

Homeless shelters in rural southern New Mexico are rare--or consist of ramshackle trailers gutted to make dorms, like this location outside Deming. Emma, the woman who runs this ministry, says it's not a place for families. But they come anyhow....

A New York movement to change the way poverty is measured could give rise to a long overdue adjustment to how this nation measures poverty. The reassuring message that "only" 12.5% of the population lives in poverty is misleading at best.

The current U.S. Poverty Level is based on the good ol' days--the 1960s. Remember those days?? Gas cost $1 for 4 gallons! Home heating and electric costs were minimal. Housing didn't require 2 incomes. Take a look at this link and decide if you'd be able to survive, much less thrive, at this level.

No president wants to adjust the poverty rate in this country. It just wouldn't look good, "My legacy is poverty statistically doubled during my term of office." Nah, it ain't gonna happen.

Some enlightened economic experts have determined what it takes to survive in this rapidly changing economy, suggesting that doubling the current rate would be more accurate. The independent and brassy mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, has embraced their concepts.

Shift from bustling NYC to the fringe of the SW United States border to the town of Columbus, NM. This crusty, dusty community of about 1,800 embodies poverty to the limit: at the current rate it shows up at 57%. More realistically it would be 100%, with no visible means of lifting itself out of the poverty pit.

As we were being shown around this area by the school district's homeless liaison, both Laura and I cringed at the thought of anyone being raised here in this shantytown. Hundreds of children walk to an overcrowded school and play on the shade-free dirt roads a mere 3 miles from Mexico.

"Doing without" typically means doing without water, without heat, without a solid structure to come between ravages of weather and your family.

Far too many places like Columbus exist in our still-wealthy country, hidden in the mine-scarred Appalachian hills; in forgotten fringe neighborhoods abutting fast food littered Interstate highways; spilling through the guts of large, medium and small cities; discretely concealed on the edge of glitzy resort communities; and scattered like tumbleweed throughout remote rural areas.

What seems to be lost in the argument is that these neighborhoods are comprised of people--adults and children discarded by the techno-economic monster that devours its own in its greedy pursuit of power and profits. Homelessness is a natural by-product of such inequities. Homelessness is proof that poverty is alive and well in America.

Seems to me that it's time to get the numbers right instead of deluding ourselves that "only" 12.5% are poor. Maybe by channeling 25% of our nation's resources to alleviate poverty and homelessness we'll start to undo decades of neglect that has led to the mess we're in right now. What do our presidential candidates say about this?

Columbus, NM poverty

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