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....

Saturday, November 22, 2008

'I'm Freezing' if it matters...

Pansies planted in Atlanta-area flowerbeds get more concern than people it seems. Pansies are my favorite flower, and seeing the Peach State's profusion of hearty pansies in November makes me smile.

Flowers and plants have been highlighted in recent weather report freeze warnings in this southern metro area. Bring 'em in, cover them or you'll be sorry.

My reaction, not surprisingly, is 'what about the people??!' who live outside or are forced to spend a great deal of time in the cold waiting for a nighttime shelter to open.

I gave a couple presentations in Saratoga Springs, NY this week for National Hunger and Homelessness week, strategically slotted for the week before the oft'-gluttonous Thanksgiving holiday. This NY resort community has a mixture of the very wealthy and the very homeless. Some still linger in between.

The learning curve is steep, but a handful of dedicated and compassionate leaders are trying to make a difference. When you have school district homeless education liaison
s teaming up with college professors, good things can happen. Toss in some motivated, enlightened kids, like the group(see pix) from Captain Youth & Family Services program, and results are all but guaranteed.

They need all the help they can get in this horse-centered community. If you're a race horse, you get a nice place to sleep. I
f you're a family in need of shelter you'd be out of luck.

Saratoga Springs is one of the many places across the nation where homeless men and women can find a place to sleep and perhaps get some help, but families, nah. The local safety net consists of putting families in motels for a limited period--typically a few nights to a week. You can bet that they don't get a spot in any of the luxury extended-stay motels.

When a concerned audience member approached me after my talk asking me about my
reaction to putting families in motels I welcomed the chance to explain. After listing the standard concerns:
  • drug trafficking,
  • prostitution,
  • sex offenders,
  • little way to store food or prepare meals,
  • no privacy/space
  • cost
I asked him to think back on the last time he stayed in a motel with his family. How long did it take until staying the cramped living space got on his nerves? Toss in a heavy dose of stress--losing one's housing, financial woes, no hope--and the thought of being stuck in a money-sucking motel. He had the look of someone whose heart and brain were beginning to make a connection.

It seems to me that communities lacking shelters should hold a homelessness awareness experience for their local government leaders, especially those in charge of social services. Set them and their families up for a week in a local 'no-tell-motel' and make them promise to stick it out, not using their financial resources or personal networks to ease the discomfort. I bet my lunch money that you'd see some significant progress in making sure a real safety net gets woven real fast.


Anonymous said...

When are we going to shift our priorities to people?

Hopefully we'll see some significant changes when Obama takes over. Hard to imagine how it could get worse!

Keep up the great work!

Diane Nilan said...

Thanks! I agree!

Check out our page on

We'd love to have people sign up for this cause of addressing homelessness.