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....

Friday, February 1, 2008

Explain It to Me Like I'm a 4-Year-Old

What would you say to this child if she asked you why she didn't have a home?

She doesn't. Her family is in a shelter--they're "lucky" compared to the countless kids who have a lot tougher surroundings. A conservative estimate is that over 1.5 million kids are homeless in this country.

Family homelessness is getting the short end of the stick from the federal--and probably lots of states--government. For starters, the feds don't recognize the realities of homelessness that most families experience--they're doubled-up, insecurely housed, or precariously staying in motels.

"We don't want to open a floodgate," is the classic Beltway response from those protecting the federal definition of homeless.

OPEN THE FLOODGATE???!!! is my flabbergasted reply.

Of course, this is the same government that has managed to evade any responsibility for the floodgates that opened in New Orleans. I shouldn't think that government and responsibility go hand-in-hand except when the government is laying down the responsibility law to impoverished parents.

As the U.S. economy crumbles--at least for some--it's the families who will find their resources dried up. When that happens, it's a short hop to homelessness. And homeless families rarely have it good. It's a lot easier to get into homelessness than to get out of it.

This little girl is at least in a shelter with her family, being assisted by structured programs and caring staff. We'd like to believe that all cute little kids have the same. But, truth be told, most kids without homes are not in shelters. Many communities have no shelters or their shelters are full.

So, when are we going to get this message across in a way that someone with clout will start to do something about it? Who is going to push this issue--one that holds the well-being of kids like this little girl as central? When are the presidential candidates going to even mention the term "homeless families" in their laundry list of ailments in this land of plenty?

Seems to me that we should paste this picture up on our mirrors and be painfully reminded that this nation, under God, doesn't seem to care what happens to 4-year-old girls, or any poor children and their families....and then take a breath, and realize that each of us has a responsibility to do something about it. Then DO IT!


dinroller said...

I'm sorry, but I've worked with the homeless for over 2 years now. What I see in the mothers with whom I work: no wherewithall to earn a G.E.D. or take job training, as well as no work ethic. What I DO see: savviness to know and "work" the system, as well as plenty of money spent on cigarettes and more cigarettes. Our school district offers SO MUCH to help the kids FREE OF CHARGE, but do these parents care enough to take advantage? RARELY, if ever. From the caseworkers and social workers I've spoken with, they estimate maybe 5% (a high estimate) of their clients care to rise out of generational poverty. Ruby Payne's book, A Culture of Poverty, gives great insight. For many, poverty, jail and homelessness are a fact of life. WE, on the outside, are the ones who make a big deal out of it. It's just a way of life for many of them. Unfortunately, as in so many other situations, the poor children suffer and get dragged around with no stability.

katia said...

I was speaking with someone yesterday and I used the word ‘homeless’.
He said ,”I really hate that word. ‘Home’ is a concept. It’s much more accurate to say ‘houseless’.”

It reminded me of a story I had heard last year.
A reporter was interviewing a ‘houseless’ woman and her 8 year old daughter.
The reporter asked the young girl “How does it feel to be homeless?”
She replied, “We have a home. We just need a house to put it in.”

Out of the mouth of babes.

Well, hello, I'm Katia and I'm a photojournalist in Seattle. I photograph for a publication called 'Real Change' - a paper for homeless advocacy and social justice.
I know 117 homeless street youth and I love them very much - they are family to me. They've taken me in, let me live in their squats with them, photograph them, and I help them in ways I am able. They call me 'Mama Dread' (I have long dreadlocks) and I am honored that they do. Most come from abusive or apathetic home situations with parents who are alcoholics or drug addicts or mentally ill. (not all, of course, but many!)
I've been with them for nearly 3 years now and have never seen another adult take any interest them. It's heart-wrenching because I truly believe that it will take PEOPLE, not government, to make any real difference in this realm.
All that to say, I am happy to find your blog and I want to thank you for all you do.
If you ever find yourself in seattle, I'd love to meet you.

Be well..


Diane Nilan said...

Thanks, katia! Your kind comments soften the remarks from the previous unenlightened writer.

I'd love to meet you. Your work is incredible! I'll look you up if I get near Seattle.