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....

Sunday, February 14, 2010

USA--A Nation in Love with Homelessness?

I I peruse news about homelessness from across the land some things jump out at me. We seem to grasp symbolic solutions, like donating jeans for teens, a good deed as far as it goes, but I wonder if it becomes a band-aid that covers a larger wound? 

In my quarter century of working with homeless persons, coming at it from a non-social work perspective, I've been dismayed at our nation's ability to bandage problems instead of address root causes. Homelessness is a perfect example. We just "love" to do charity, volunteering to make brownies for the homeless shelter, but when asked to contact Congress to urge passage of legislation to ease a greater need--e.g. helping homeless kids get an education--well, we scoot off to take the brownies out of the oven.

Now, as a former shelter director, I was always happy for brownies, chocolate chip cookies, and the volunteers to staff our shelter. Unfortunately we need such temporary solutions because we as a nation seem stuck in the mud when it comes to addressing homelessness and poverty issues.

One area of blatant unjust "patience" that seems intractable is child support payments. I blogged about this issue a few months ago on my Poverty in America blog, generating what for me was a firestorm of responses, from women and men.  Last night, visiting with my friend Angela in Opelousas, LA, we were talking about our latest documentary, "It's All About the Children" (working title), and how a common theme among homeless mothers was the lack of support from fathers of the children.

"Oh yeah, let me show you something," exclaimed Angela, a spunky mother of 9 whose poignant story unfolds in our film. She reached over to her computer, clicked a few times, and showed me her ex-husband's child support (lack of) payment record. Although I was impressed with Louisiana's technology, I was far less impressed with the state's ability to get the father to pay. 

Seems to me that our nation suffers from attention deficit disorder. We tend to lose sight of important issues, vigorously substituting frivolity, like making sure homeless teens have jeans or developing fancy technology that tells us what we know. You can prove me wrong-- petition your Senators to increase essential resources for homeless students' education. Share this blog with your network. It's a small act, like a snowflake. But as this snow-battered country should know, a bunch of snowflakes make a huge impact. Time for a blizzard....


Kevin Barbieux said...

An interesting side effect of child support payments; a noticeable percentage of homeless men are living in shelters because all of their income goes to pay child support and alimony. Some balance needs to be reached here.

Diane Nilan said...

Yeah, Kevin, I've known guys at our shelter who were in this predicament. I agree, balance is needed. The whole system needs balance--child support, wages, income support and more.

Nichole Parlapiano said...

I love your blog. I came across it while searching for information on homeless foster children in MASS.

Please feel free to take a look at my blog as well.

Diane Nilan said...

Thanks, Nicole. Glad you found IHK. I'll check out your blog too.