Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Deep in the South, in Mississippi, a state that registers 41th for child homelessness according to the National Center on Family Homelessness report "America's Youngest Outcasts", I made a discovery. People here aren't mean or callous on this issue. They just don't know--as in don't see family/youth homelessness in front of them.
"We take care of our own," explained one educator at the MS Dept. of Education Homeless Conference I presented at this week in their quiet capitol city of Jackson. She explained that when a family was having "hard times (i.e. homeless)" that others took them in. Often the local church gets involved.
And that is fine and good on one level. But consider one drawback--not identifying the root problem for what it is--a family lacks the resources/abilities to survive and thrive on their own--prevents those in power, the government, from knowing family/youth poverty and homelessness is a problem. So it goes on and on...
That seemed to be a common dilemma for rural folks, where shelters and agencies are non-existent to begin with, that people make do thanks to outstanding hospitality of family, friends and neighbors.
This state has identified over 11,000 homeless children. Conventional wisdom is multiply that number by 2 or 3 to factor in the invisible kids. Actually, with over 260,000 MS children living in poverty, figure a minimal 10% will experience homelessness. 26,000 children in Mississippi with no place to call home....
Seems to me that it's time to reframe the issue so legislators and other policymakers can get a clue. Let those with the nice houses, the mansions along the Gulf, the spacious stately abodes on moss-draped streets, the historic governor's mansion, you know, the rich folks...let them be the ones to take in the families having trouble. We'd soon have some forward movement on a long-ignored issue.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Imagine a ship filled with passengers and crew, an adequate vessel owned by a wealthy, respected maritime corporation.
The ship fairly capably sails for a long time, and passengers and crew are mostly satisfied. But, unbeknownst to the passengers and the lower-ranking, least respected crew members—those who do the grungy grunt work—things are drastically changing.
Instead of plotting the course, the officers, including previous Captains, have spent a lot of time plotting how to have better accommodations and more control, at the expense of both passengers and the “non-essential” crew. This top-down systemic mutiny doesn’t happen with one swing of the sword, but as a gradual, noticeable change in the way things happen and how the ship's supplies are divvied up.
Soon it becomes apparent that because of the redistribution of space and materials, something has to give. With little fanfare, lowest ranking crew gets tossed overboard; then passengers, the least-affluent, up through the ranks. Finally, only the elite members of the crew remain and a handful of very lucky, and very wealthy, passengers who were able to buy their safety.
To say operations became dysfunctional is an understatement. Despite the need for crew and passengers for balance, the ship kept churning, although in erratic circles. Without adequate sailors and crew, the ship hits a hidden shoal, seriously damaging its hull. Abandon ship! Anarchy reigns....
The good ship USA is off course. Alienation is the norm. Thrashing, desperate former ship occupants and crew scramble to get on the lifeboats as the USS USA starts to list further to the right. The elite passengers and crew struggle to repel the invaders. With incredible help from the waterlogged masses, a new Captain, determined to rescue the ousted passengers and crew, fights his way on board and makes his way to the top deck.
Take the above analogy and apply it to the current health care debate, or affordable housing/homelessness issues, racism, sexism, fair wages, environment, or any conundrum between the “haves” and the “have-nots.”
We're at a time in our country's history when more people are disenfranchised than ever. Homelessness among families, teens and single adults has blown off the charts. Poverty is spreading like wildfire thanks to those who schemed to gain control of even more money and power by sabotaging national and global economic engines.
Don't tell me that we CAN'T improve things. We can't afford to fail. Remember, we've managed to make progress on many essential issues, but every time we crawl onto the lifeboat we let some big brute stomp on our fingers and kick us off.
Seems to me that the only hope is for a strong voice of reason to be heard above the cacophonous cries of the self-interested mutineers. They need to walk the plank. Captain Obama and the masses need to get our mass-asses together and kick some ass. We may have to out-mutiny the mutineers....
NOTE: The New York Times ran a powerful op-ed column about poverty by Barbara Eherenreich, one of my s-heroes. It's worth reading, pondering and sharing! DDN