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....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

How Many Ways to Say 'We've Got a Problem'?

The old love poem starts, "How do I love you? Let me count the ways." I suggest an alternative, "How bad is homelessness among families and teens? Let me count noses..." and then I'd point to myriad ways the problem has been described....
Let's see...soaring, skyrocketing, surging, exploding, astronomical, rising, record levels...well, you get the point.
In the days of Phil Mangano (pre-Obama administration homelessness czar at the mic), we heard a great
deal, ad nauseam, about the need for numbers to convince the administration that we have a problem. So, with a nationwide systemic effort, school districts began tallying, a homeless kid here, a homeless kid there.

Numbers, not my forte nor my favorite way of considering a problem that seems quite obvious, started adding up as this decade unfolded. 600k, 700k, and up. And then the econo-bubble burst and now we're up to more than a MILLION school kids, not counting pre-school or pre-adult siblings or parents. And that's just the kids identified. Some of us believe the million could truly be over 3 mil.

Every article I've seen, and I try to monitor nationwide news on this issue, refers to actual COUNTS of homeless kids in specific geographic areas of varying sizes--metro, suburban, rural--from Anchorage to Key West.

But now, with numbers "
soaring, skyrocketing, surging, exploding, astronomical, rising, at record levels," our nation is distracted. Failed bombing attempt, Karl Rove's divorce, Charlie Sheen's probable divorce, you know, important things. Oh yeah, and the economy, health insurance, er, care, jobs....

Hey, that's not fair! We've counted. We've got lots of kids who don't know where they're going to lay their heads, eat their meals, find their mom/dad after school, do their homework; kids wondering if they'll get reunited with their friends from their old neighborhoods, get their pets back, get to try out for band or basketball. These kids count!

We're happy the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act gets/keeps them
in school. And we've got a new and improved M-V bill that may someday make its way through Congress and become law. (To help, sign this petition to your Senator.)

HEAR US, my organization, works with schools and communities to help them identify and understand
homelessness by letting them hear from the kids themselves, the experts. My Own Four Walls, our collection of documentaries (DVD), lets them rip on how it feels to be a kid without a home. They're powerful.

If we keep going the way we've been headed (no doubt we will), we'll have bunches of homelessness experts. Too many to count. And we'll have squandered the opportunity to make sure these kids had what they needed to be successful adults--simple things like a modest place to live with their families or on their own, adequate nutrition, health care. And we'll have a bumper crop of homeless adults.

Seems to me that between shenanigans and squandering, our nation is quite busy. Too busy to make sure homeless kids count? While the Obama administration is doing a little, it's way too little and will be too late if we don't ramp up those efforts NOW! Consider it a test of what's really important....

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