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, March 14, 2009

Enough Tents? Better Be!

Tent City, Aurora, IL 2002

"Tent City" has become the frequent topic in news stories. And comments on these stories range from concerned to condemning (most often of the people living there). People seem more critical of homeless persons than they do of Madoff and other schemers.

As one of the unwilling founders of the first authorized Tent City in this country, back in 1990, I feel the need to weigh in on this topic.

Tent cities are abysmal (in most cases) responses to homelessness. The growing number of TCs in this country certainly reflects the growing level of homelessness, along with the decline of housing dollars spent by our government. Too often, stories show adults, sometimes not the most sympathetic characters (for many people). But what about the children?

As "mayor" of our TC in Aurora, my rule, or standard, was NO CHILDREN. I knew what might go on in the mostly self-ruled nylon-walled community behind our shelter. Most TC residents didn't want the responsibility of families in what might occasionally be an unsavory environment. I ended up bending the rule when faced with no other options.

For the record, as difficult as life was for the "campers" in our commune, most were more than exemplary. We all strove to make it as humane as possible, and once in awhile we received visitors, including folks from Seattle, who wanted to learn about how to start their own TC.

Recent national news stories
focused on the growth of homelessness among children. I predict it will be a matter of a short time that we'll be (hopefully) disturbed by images of families living in these Third World-like campgrounds. Why?

Ask anyone who pays bills about the rise in utility bill rates. Most households gulp and pay. But families in public housing who have little to no income don't have that luxury. If they can't gulp and pay, they get evicted. I'm not talking "deadbeat" families, if we should classify impoverished families in this manner given the poor example set by some rich slime buckets, but I digress....

Households in HUD-subsidized housing face eviction if they fall behind on their utility bills and get shut off. Let's understand the reality here:
  • Utility bills have skyrocketed since the global economy was deliberately manipulated by greedy power-brokers.
  • Poverty has skyrocketed, with foreclosures, evictions, businesses shutting their doors, causing widespread fiscal devastation everywhere.
  • People relying on subsidized housing in most cases, their limited income status not withstanding, must pay skyrocketing utility bills.
  • If they can't pay, they get evicted, often becoming homeless, adding to the skyrocketing number of families on the streets.
  • Homelessness, in addition to the harm it causes families, also causes costs for local communities to skyrocket--education, health care, emergency services, and public safety (to name a few).
My outrage is skyrocketing, as people like Jim Cramer (CNBC financial "guru") admit to their "shenanigans" that have caused global meltdown. SHENANIGANS??? Tell that to this family, mom with her 3 girls, who spent over 6 months living in a tent on the edge of an Oregon town.

Seems to me that family Tent Cities need to be set up in front of the homes of the "shenanigan" perpetrators. And, in the meantime, HUD needs to declare a moratorium on evictions until Cramer and Company can pay the utility bills of the families facing eviction. It might be a good time to buy stock in tent manufacturers.

If you are sufficiently outraged, please take a few moments to join in the HEAR US Piggies' Project, aimed at changing the way Congress lets HUD deal with homelessness.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tim's Temptations Are COOL!

Wordle: My Own Four Walls
Wordle: Invisible HomelessnessLeave it to Tim Harris to teach this old dog new tricks! Perusing his always interesting and eclectic blog, Apesma's Lament, he had a wordle. I didn't know what it was, but got curious and then, after wrestling with Java stuff, created a few, including the above, representing the kids and states included in My Own Four Walls (and those kids who didn't make the documentary but are still very much a part of the HEAR US project.

Seems to me it's an indication of our being absolutely overwhelmed by the disastrous state of affairs that we let ourselves get distracted by creativity. But isn't it cool??!!!

Tim-how did you make your wordle so large?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Familiar Cough--A Bleak Reminder

Too often as the director of a busy Illinois suburban homeless shelter I heard that cough that served as living proof of a lack of health care and a brutal lifestyle.

This morning, at the state park I'm calling home for the weekend, my neighbor barked regularly as he struggled under the hood with a malfunctioning engine of a very old SUV.

While he worked wordlessly, his 5-year-old daughter gingerly skirted their campsite, where their very old camper was parked. She looked like she just got home from church, but the family hadn't left their spot. Her blue dress and pretty shoes with white socks belied their camping experience.

Is this family homeless? I'd bet my lunch money they are. If so, they are among the countless others in this southern New Mexico area who are forced to make due because no safety net exists to speak of--no family shelter, very limited other assistance.

I met with the local mayor this week. A nice enough man, newly elected, he seemed unaware of the nature of homelessness among his community's families. I'm sure his agenda is overflowing with critical issues.

Seems to me
we need to make the well-being of families critical issues. They've been ignored far too long. It's just like this dad's cough--it doesn't go away, it gets worse and is more expensive and painful to treat. Left untreated, it can lead to dire consequences.

Those concerned about the well-being of homeless families and teens can do something about it. HEAR US is urging people to participate in our Piggies' Campaign, a way to let Congress know that these invisible homeless families and teens are out here, coughing, wheezing, and struggling to get by each day.