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, August 3, 2008

More on the Mark-Up

It may sound strange, but I watched the entire mark-up hearing where the definition of homelessness was discussed. You can too, by going to this site. To save you the trouble of finding the right spot, just go to the 4:13 point. Watch it all if you have the time. It's interesting to see democracy at work.

But if you don't have time, here are my recommendations for some juicy pa

4:30, Rep. Geoff Davis, R-KY (gotta love those Rs!) rips the “advocates” who dismiss the issue of homeless kids as not really homeless. He knows this issue firsthand. He was a homeless kid who, with his mother, doubled-up with others.

6:20, Rep. Foster, D-IL, my congressman, who RIPS me and my colleagues for our advocacy efforts. The man can’t pronounce “homelessness.” That's just the beginning of his problem on this issue. He better hope that I think better of the idea to park Tillie in front of his office so I can give him a tutorial on this issue. He didn't stick around.

6:28, Rep. Franks, D-MA—committee chair, who I think expresses sincere frustration, “close to anguish,” saying this was the hardest issue facing this committee that he can remember. He's been around a long time. I expect better of him.

6:55, Rep. Davis launches an extemporaneous tirade after sharing his experiences as a child who experienced abuse and homelessness.

Throughout the hearing only a few Representatives--I'd say 3 at the most on either side--actually stay for the hearing. Congresswoman Judy Biggert, R-IL, does and she constantly reminds the committee that kids having no place to call home is a BIG problem--one which needs solving, not surveying. She gets it.

The excuses--we don't have enough money--we don't want to tax the system--don't cut it. The committee voted for a ridiculous definition, one which will give shelter providers headaches and will ignore the real need.
But we're at the beginning of a process. My thoughts on what happened at this meeting the other day....

It was probably the most extensive, passionate debate/discussion about homeless kids that has ever occurred in those marble halls.

I'd like to think the handful of Reps who stayed for the hearing (Rep. Foster didn't stick around after spewing his frustration at the advocates...) really care about the issue of kids who need to count--kids without homes who HUD is fighting to ignore.

My disappointment with Rep. Foster for taking a nasty shot at advocates and then leaving the hearing is immense. I did call his local office and his DC office, in addition to sending faxes on this issue. I also stopped by and talked to his staff in Batavia. I carried on an email discussion with another aide. I eventually spoke with his chief of staff. To say they were "blind-sided" on this issue is bogus.

If Foster or any of the pro-dumb-definition people think that homeless families are taken care of in their districts, well, I have an RV to sell them. Use it and go out and see what's really happening.

Citing opposition from the US Conference of Mayors for expansion of the definition is like
citing some gas company opposed to giving little people a break at the pump. I'd suspect few mayors really understand homelessness from a kid's point of view. And fewer are willing to forsake the piddly dollars that will be strewn among cities with nice mayors and cooperative Continuum of Care groups.

While shelter directors proclaim that their programs are taking care of the need (what HUD needs to hear), a massive gaping hole exists in those communities. Families who don't know about, don't want to go, or can't go to shelters for any number of reasons make do in motels, tents, vans, or with Aunt Shirley. The "making do" often isn't pretty, at least from the kids' standpoint.

In the meantime, HUD's abysmal "chronic homelessness" initiative is being recalibrated because IT'S NOT WORKING! And this administration, proponents of the 10-year-plan, w
ill skip out of office in a few months.

As the beleaguered champion legislators and the ones who are really tired of this issue headed off in the sunset on Friday for time in their districts, they didn't get the job done for the kids who need a future that doesn't include homelessness. I'd suggest that they take their hunger, frustration, tiredness and multiply it by at least 100--that's what families and te e ns are experiencing.

For too long this country has neglected and, in fact, caused homelessness. Read this clearly written, disturbing report if you are curious.

It seems to me that we should be nurturing some outstanding young people for leadership roles. The way things are going, homelessness for families and teens will be around long enough for some astute, experienced new blood to step in and make the policy changes necessary to get families and teens off the streets and into a place of their own. I hope I live long enough for that day to arrive.

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