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, December 12, 2008


Pardon my cynicism. Releasing their report on homelessness on a Friday, the US Conference of Mayors completed their annual ritual, a token nod to millions of homeless children, teens and adults who, by virtue of their homelessness, aren’t considered a part of any community.

For the past 22 years, USCM has issued this report. In the 20+ years I’ve been working on the issue of homelessness, I can’t recall anything that evolved from the time, money and minimal fanfare connected with this tradition.

Miami’s Mayor Manny Diaz talks about the cities being the “front line” of the war on homelessness. I’d like to suggest a good research project: dredge up the past USCM press releases and reports and see if anything is different. Investigate how “mayors have been proactive and implemented local initiatives to combat hunger and homelessness in their communities.”

As a vocal critic of HUD’s 10-Year-Plan to end Homelessness, I automatically question the motivation of elected officials who boast about efforts to address hunger and homelessness. Sorry, but I’ve not seen or heard of the impressive results that these efforts have yielded. My 65k miles of travel in the past 3 years, talking to homeless children, teens and adults, and to those who try to help them, despite dwindling resources, I can’t say things look better (that's the best I can do for a positive spin!). And this economic free-fall will be more disastrous than I want to even ponder.

And to point out something USCM, with their membership criteria of cities of 30k or more, fails to address, or even mention: if cities are the “front line” then a massive guerrilla war is happening in rural areas and small towns across the country. Hunger and homelessness are rampant, and solutions are scarce because no one (other than those experiencing it and the ill-equipped "medics” trying to help) knows that the problem is out there, or perhaps no one is willing to look that far.

Gallant, but insufficient, efforts to feed and house families, teens on their own, and single adults in non-urban areas barely touch the population needing help. Congress has been kept in the dark about the explosion of homeless families and youth by the very federal agency, HUD, charged with providing housing assistance to those most in need. HUD seems in the business of protecting Congress from the bad news of a failed housing and hunger war in the hinterlands. Oh yeah, and lots of those out there are kids and struggling families.

So, if lawmakers rely on the ho-hum report from the USCM, then the ho-hum response will continue to foster ho-hum non-solutions and, ho-hum, ho-hum-lessness and ho-hum-hunger will be around to give next year’s ho-hum-Hunger and ho-hum-Homelessness committee something to do.

It seems to me that the excitement of Ho-Ho-Ho-Obama coming and dropping some “Ready-to-Go” big bucks under the tree took all the pizzazz out of the ho-hum-hunger and homelessness report. Maybe they can use some of the Main Street Recovery money for Tent Cities so the poor grunts on the streets and the guerrillas out in the backcountry can have a place to sleep. I’ll bet the tents won’t be allowed in any USCM members’ cities.

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