invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 1,700,000 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, May 17, 2008

Rolling Thunder, Changing Lives

Storms like this are a dime a dozen in Illinois as well as many other states. We never expect disaster to befall us, but who is immune?

With all the natural disasters in the news I struggle to imagine what millions of people are doing to survive the indescribable suffering they are continuing to experience. I'm sorry, but my mind can't wrap around how the cyclone would devastate my world or how the earthquake could disrupt my life. And I'm painfully aware how the geographic distance diminishes my horror or compassion to suffering of millions of children and adults.

I'm listening to a gentle thunderstorm roll through DeKalb tonight. So normal. So soothing. And yet a tornado could be spawned that could change my life forever. We never know, which is why they're called freak acts of nature.

As I review the 31 hours of logs from our interviews that Laura has painstakingly transcribed, I can't help but think of the suffering of each of the homeless families we've interviewed. Some women were almost destined to a life of suffering, being dealt a hand that included horrific abuse and other traumas. Two families had episodic homelessness--one time events that caused their loss- of housing. Both were 2-parent families. Both seem likely to escape further homelessness.

Before anyone jumps to the conclusion that 2-parent families are the answer, please give some serious thought to the issue of sexual abuse of minors and domestic violence. Both those factors are all-too-common when it comes to homelessness and poverty. Throw in the realities of how we treat women in this world and you will be a little more understanding as to why this country has a huge problem with invisible homeless women and families. Yes, it's nice to have the "Ozzie and Harriet" world, but it's not real.

Seems to me that since ours is a less-than-perfect society, one which seems to accept, if not condone, abuse of minors and women, perhaps we should look for ways to help them piece their lives together--quality counseling, supportive services, safe and affordable housing options, drug/alcohol treatment options. Until we do, let's not bemoan the "poor choices" of women and kids who endure destructive forces in their fragile lives.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Argh! I'm Such a Wimp!

At this very moment I'm struggling. The struggle is to stay awake until my 1:30 a.m. interview on Chicago's WGN-AM radio station. I'm an early-morning person, probably getting up when some night owls are thinking about getting some shut-eye. And now I'm listening to a gentle rain on Tillie's roof and I'm thinking of my comfy bed...

NO! Don't think of the bed....

Why would I agree to do this? A good question, one which I might not be able to coherently answer at this point. But the primary reason is that I want people to know about the shameful reality: this nation has a growing population of homeless families and teens. I started HEAR US to give voice and visibility to homeless kids. And WGN is a major AM radio station. I'm sure people listen to it...and I can hope I can put brain-cells together enough to represent this issue.

But back to the bed....

How many of us take our beds--and our homes, our neighborhoods, our lives--for granted? I'm raising my hand on that. Despite the fact that I've worked with the homeless population for over 20 years, I still forget to be grateful for what I have.

When I talk with some of the homeless kids and ask them to describe where they're sleeping, I receive some disturbing, though sadly not surprising, responses. I remember ten-year old Tiffany talking about the scratchy wool blankets (Army-issue) that the church gave out. Her big dilemma every night was to freeze because of the cold air blowing in the church/shelter's windows or to use the prickly blankets.

My brain feels like it is chewing bubble gum...

As the rain becomes more intense, I think of the Oregon family I interviewed last November. It was a raw, rainy day. I dressed for cold and wet weather--coat, hat and gloves to protect me. My friend Rob and I made our way into the woods on the edge of a small town. Hidden from view was a fairly large nylon dome tent. A mom, her male friend and her 3 girls had called that home for about 6 months.

Mine is not suffering, nor is it torture, but I, far from the suffering of this world, I am mentally groaning...

In a New England state park, I noticed the family camping next to me seemed to be more than camping--I guessed correctly that they were living there. The night turned cold, down to the low 30s. This family, mom, dad and 15-month old baby had to struggle without heat because the dad hadn't gotten paid yet so he could buy propane. Talking with the mom the next day she shared some of her story as I shared mine. I also shared my extra little heater, knowing that at least they'd have some heat.

My yawns are jaw-cracking...my fingers and brain struggle to coordinate these simple words...

Our world is filled with abject poverty and suffering beyond my ability to comprehend. The people of Myanmar have re-written the book on suffering following the devastating cyclone that destroyed lives, homes and livelihoods.

This is when I get in trouble...too tired to know when to stop babbling....

I don't have any magic formulas for fixing the wrongs of this world. I struggle with the overwhelming nature of trying to change a system that seems to grow on greed. And, as always, when my flagging spirits need it most, something crosses my path to jar my pathetic whining self. This week it was Clarissa Pinkola Estes' quote:

Ours is not the task of fixing
the entire world all at once,

but of stretching out to mend the part of the world

that is within our reach.”

Seems to me that our humanity needs some reality therapy, mine included. Instead of reaching for the impossible dream of a perfect world, I'm going to aim to fix what is within my reach.


Right now I need to mend my brain-finger connection and my fuzzy brain. The phone will ring shortly--it better--because if I've stayed up this long for nothing...there I go wimping again...