invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 1,500,000 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....

Friday, January 9, 2009

"No Tell" Motels Finally Blab

About 10 years ago, I wrote and produced a report entitled "No-Tell Motels" or something like that. Our coalition tried to tell anyone who would listen that desperate homeless families were turning to motels in lieu of homeless shelters, often because no shelters were available.

That was then, and this is now... 2 well-respected national organizations, the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (NAEHCY) and First Focus, examined how families and teens are falling into the deep hole of homelessness. They included the issue of non-vacation motel use, aka 21st century homeless shelters, in their recent report, "The Economic Crisis Hits Home: the Unfolding Increase in Family & Youth Homelessness." To no surprise in these blistering economic times, homeless families turn to motels in droves.

First, to the nay-sayers:
  1. Many communities either don't have shelters or shelters are not accessible to families (typically because the shattered family would have to split up. Many shelters don't allow older boys to stay with their families. Some have rules which prohibit parents from working later hours. Or some are plum full.)
  2. After losing their home (eviction, foreclosure, etc.) the family may have SOME money, not much, but they also have tarnished credit, a no-no for many landlords. Motels allow paying daily or weekly, not cost effective, but easier to come up with than first/last month's rent, security deposit and utilities' deposits. But it traps the family, sucking up their money, not allowing them to save.
  3. It's not a "vacation" to stay for any length of time in a crowded motel room with no privacy or adequate space for stuff. Try cooking for a family on a hot plate for a good challenge....
  4. It's not fun, nor is it stable, with families typically patching together motels, friends' houses, cars, and "camping" for their nighttime abode. It's a logistical nightmare for all involved.
This conundrum--the explosive growth in family/youth homelessness--is bad for everyone: kids, parents, schools, communities. For too long it has been ignored, hoping it will go away. The Hits Home report, giving a solid glimpse at conditions throughout the country, also offers a solid action plan.

Seems to me that it's just one more thing to pile on the Obama plate, teeming with vittles left by W and predecessors. For those who think it can wait, imagine the 1.5 million+ homeless kids growing up to be homeless adults.The motel pix (above), one I shot west of Plains, GA, has some vacancies.

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