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....

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Our chance to weigh in on homeless kids

Maybe it will do some good. It can't hurt.

Am I so hope-deprived that I doubt the power of the Internet?

You can help both promote the idea that homeless kids and families need their own four walls, and at the same time restore my faith that homelessness is an issue that people are willing to care about.

I've set up a page on and have challenged people toVOTE on the issue of homelessness as it affects the invisible families and youth. Plus I'm asking for financial support for our nonprofit organization, HEAR US, which gives voice and visibility to homeless kids.

HEAR US has been involved in some amazing endeavors to help homeless families and youth:
  • We created and are distributing a powerful video that helps homeless kids.
  • We've worked hard to successfully remove barriers for homeless youth so they can apply for financial aid to go to college.
  • We have staved off the attempts to narrow the definition of homelessness, and at the same time managed to get Congress talking about this long-ignored problem.
  • We're going behind bars, helping homeless parents protect their children's educational stability, and more...

So if you care about this issue, click on the widget--the thingie at the top of this post. If you'd like to support HEAR US buy some of our "stuff" that really does make a difference.

Seems to me we are so overdue for change in this country that we can't believe we have the chance to bring it about. But we do, if we act. Feel free to share this invitation with your circle of friends and colleagues.

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.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Get Hope (non-political) Here

Some of us in the room of 600+ attendees at this year's NAEHCY conference had the same thought--wishing we had forcibly kidnapped congressional staffers who oppose expanding HUD's definition of homelessness to include families and teens who have lost housing but are not staying in shelters. We wouldn't kidnap them for ransom, but to have them sit through the agonizingly painful, but beyond-inspiring testimony of 17 young LeTendre Scholarship winners given to college-bound teens who have experienced homelessness.

Why is it that some young people can go through so much--horrible abuse, repeated rejection, extreme neglect, abject poverty, and more--and still have hope? We adults aren't that resilient. We're wimps. These teens were rich in hope--someone believed in them, instilling a sense of belief in self, which kept them from giving up on themselves. They are the reason we fight so hard to level the playing field for kids without homes.

Each of these students stood courageously before a full crowd and shared deeply personal accounts of loss of housing and their typically patchwork quilt of survival, moving from place to place, friend's house to someone's car, nomadic lifestyles weaving patterns of street-smarts and school-smarts that shame the rest of us "silver-spooners." They spoke of how they value education as a ticket out of poverty and a way to give back for all they've been given.

These kids, with the exception of 2-3, were "unaccompanied homeless youth," a specific population that Congress seems determined to ignore, heeding HUD's warning that they can only save so many people from homelessness, so let's concentrate on "chronically" homeless adults.

They're not considered homeless enough. Or maybe they just don't count. Or maybe Congress is going to eventually get it right and look at housing from the ground up--and decide that everyone deserves a place to call home.

Seems to me that we should just kidnap the staffers and somehow arrange a big switcheroo. Let the staffers experience this highly-mobile, unpredictable lifestyle when you don't know if or where you'll be able to sleep each night, or worse yet, if you'll be sexually abused by an adult you trust, powerless to fight it because it means you have a place to sleep. Insert these wise-beyond-their-years teens who understand that homelessness comes in different packages into congressional offices to advise their bosses about the real needs of Americans. These determined young people are virtual hope machines. I vote to turn them loose on this confused country.