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....

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Make Homeless Kids Count!

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All across the country well-intentioned people are pursuing
the task equivalent to counting angels on the head of a pin--HUD's Point-In-Time
count, or PIT, where in a 24-hour timeslot volunteers go hither-and-yon to count
homeless adults.

I attended a training where volunteers were told "don't count the kids." I sat
on my hands and practiced meditation to keep from disrupting the session.
Don't count the kids, wait till they're adults then they'll count.

Hopefully this will be the last "Don't Count the Kids" homeless count. With
every new administration comes new policies from HUD, the PIT agency.

But a move is afoot to make sure kids count. Congresswoman Judy Biggert
(R-13th/IL) and a bipartisan group of enlightened co-sponsors have introduced

HR 29, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2009.

This bill would change the way homeless people are counted, including families
and teens on their own when tallying the numbers. It's an effort that has built
in momentum, and one that needs to happen soon so Congress will actually get the
idea that homelessness among families and teens is as huge of an issue as it
really is.

This blog would be way too long to explain why and how this homeless census got
distorted, and why some people want it to stay that way. In my humble opinion,
it's the money, stupid.

Money for housing and homelessness has been a pittance even longer than I've
been involved, 23 years. Homeless people aren't usually the most political
active and the few people who try to lobby are way overpowered by "the suits"
who are jostling about the halls of Congress with big money concerns.

But we propose to bring some highly visible lobbyists to urge Congresspersons to
join as co-sponsors of HR 29. And you can be a part of this movement to make
homeless kids count.

has prepared a simple fax to use to ask your legislator to
join as an HR 29 co-sponsor. On the form is the heartbreaking image of babies
toes, or Piggies.

The fax is overtly designed to capture the attention of the recipient,
identifying babies as part of the homeless population. If they can live with
that thought, well, that says a lot.

So if you want homeless kids to count, join the
campaign. And get your friends, the people you work or
worship with, your service get the idea. The Piggies form is simple
and designed to be easy to spread over the Internet.

Seems to me we need to turn our election/inaugural fervor into
action. With so many issues clamoring for attention, how about picking one where
the beneficiaries of improved policies are pretty well voiceless and invisible,
not to mention helpless?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

O Happy Day!

Where shall I spend Inauguration Day? That was my dilemma as I sat at a north Florida campground on Monday morning. To my freezing friends, sorry about the FL reference. And rest assured, it's been pretty darn cold here.

I looked at the map, knowing I was headed for Opelousas and Shreveport, LA. I picked out a route to take me across the shores of Mississippi, where I had never been, knowing a few state parks were scattered along the way. What about New Orleans?, I mused, looking at the map and seeing Bayou Segnette SP right next to NO.

As it happened, I landed here last night, and looked online for an Obama Inauguration day event, finding one at the "Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club," which in my non-NO state of mind thought it sounded like a brothel. After checking it out, I registered to attend, and plotted my route to include the free ferry (leaving my RV, Tillie, behind in the parking area).

Thanks to kind NO people and the efficient trolley-bus system, I arrived at Zulu early, in time for a front seat by the big screen TV. The room filled as the event unfolded. The energizing excitement at Zulu was dwarfed only by the millions on the Mall.

I couldn't believe my emotional state--sitting in front of a huge TV, surrounded by a crowd of strangers as excited as I was to be together, listening to a full-sentence-capable president extolling each one of us to shake off the sludge of despair and to realize the task of rebuilding our nation's greatness would be a task for all of us. My joy was enhanced as I released despair that I've seen in so many children, teens and adults who lost their place to call home.

Perhaps you'd like to visit the Zulu Club and watch me as I listened to President "Hope" Obama take the reins of this nation. I can tell you that I was feeling the inexplicable emotion that comes when you allow yourself to believe the rescue boat is about to come ashore. It's not over, nor will it be soon enough for the millions of children, teens and adults without homes. But perhaps we can try something new--comprehensively address poverty, involve those affected by the problem in the solution, and not be satisfied with the crumbs from the table usually tossed at the millions of homeless people in this country.

It seems to me that if not now, when?

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.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

The Right Attitude Within Our Reach

Start the New Year off right. Believe in possibilities that can change the abysmally dysfunctional way our country has been traveling, thus end unnecessary suffering for so many families, teens and adults who lack a place to call home.

One of my favorite daily reads is a site called DailyGood. It offers an inspirational quote and a short essay focusing on, well, good.

Today's offering provides a balanced way of looking at our world--with its imbalances--and gives us a boost in the _____ (insert part of anatomy here) so we can be a part of the solution instead of the problem.

Seems to me the New Year is a good time to shake off whatever old year dust that lingers and, taking a breath filled with hope, challenge ourselves to improve our relationship with Creation at least a little bit. A fresh start, if you will, that can harness the goodness in us and around us to ease the discomfort we experience and witness. To all who read this blog, thanks for coming back. Don't be shy! Share a thought or two. And thanks for the goodness that happens because of your presence in the world.