Friday, July 11, 2008
Do Homeless Kids Count?
Somewhere back about 1994-5, Congress was about to do away with the entire McKinney homeless education law. We had just passed the Illinois Education for Homeless Children Act and it didn't take a political scientist to figure if McKinney went down the toilet so would IL EHCA. So we made a bunch of signs including the one on the left that says "the question is not CAN homeless kids count, but DO they count?" next to a picture of Charlie. And we mustered together a protest march and a press conference.
We had Republican legislators, (now retired) State Reps. Suzanne Deuchler and Mary Lou Cowlishaw show up for our conference and they made very supportive comments. Our kids carried signs and were very much a part of the action. Barbara Duffield had just started working for the National Coalition for the Homeless and I had met her once or twice, sizing her up after her predecessor, Joan--name escapes me.
Barbara and I spoke often during this crisis. I learned something from/about her. She wasn't a pie-in-the-sky ivory tower advocate, she was grass-roots and VERY determined. I had to ratchet up my efforts to keep up with her. We involved our shelter volunteers and our homeless brothers and sisters who stayed there if they were so inclined. They were. We sent faxes by the bazillion to our legislators telling them to back off this silly plan.
Mary Lou Cowlishaw made a phone call to her Congressman, Harris Fawell, a personal friend. She said something--I can only imagine it was vintage MLC--"Harris, get them to back off this silly plan..." or something like that.
Denny Hastert sent a staffer to talk with me one night as I was squeezing in a few more faxes before our shelter doors opened at 7. STOP! was their plea--you've convinced us. We quit--the "we" being Congress, brought to their knees by a fierce army of advocates and fax machines.
That was then. This is now.
We need a fierce army of advocates to call and fax their Members of Congress, particularly if they sit on the House Financial Services subcommittee. The committee meets Tuesday, July 15, and they will decide the fate of homeless kids, much like back in the mid-90s.
Back then we didn't have email, blogs, or access to the Internet. Now you can click here
type in your zip code and in a flash get your congressperson's name and contact info (HINT, HINT).
Then you could either call or fax (NO SNAIL MAIL OR EMAIL FOR THIS CAMPAIGN) a brief message to urge them to:
1) NOT SUPPORT THE HEARTH BILL, HR 840, (yup, the same bill we supported until today when it was gutted like a catfish and replaced by a piece of crap). We want them to PULL THE BILL and,
2) If an amendment comes up that allows homeless kids to count (letting HUD count them if they've been ID'ed as homeless by other federal programs), then support that amendment.
HOMELESS KIDS COUNT! What a concept. We fought for this 15 years ago and we're still fighting. We won 15 years ago. Will we win this one? We have a lot to lose, because to some of us, homeless kids count to the max.
Seems to me it's time put aside the fantasy sports and reality TV, dust off the fax machines, and write a message to your member of Congress. Feel what democracy is supposed to be--voters letting their legislators know what's important. HOMELESS KIDS COUNT.