Step over. Walk around. Don't look. Forget about.
Dead birds don't merit much attention except by bird-lovers. That's kinda the same way homeless kids tend to be treated. I'm a homeless-kid-lover. And stepping over, walking around, not looking or forgetting about homeless children in Las Cruces, NM, or elsewhere, is not an option. I've long written about this tragic travesty.
My ire got raised as I read this Las Cruces Bulletin article about the long-vacated Las Cruces family shelter now being converted into a children crisis center. Let me say straight up that I think every community should have a safe place for young (and older) children to go when they are in danger. But...
...the vacant building that for 4 years sat vacant on the campus of the Community of Hope used to house homeless families. My first visit to Las Cruces, a pleasant community of about 80,000 on the south end of New Mexico, had me tethered to their shelter by way of extension cord. I spent time inside, talking with families, interviewing kids for "My Own Four Walls," the now-popular HEAR US series of documentaries (DVD, $40).
Las Cruces has no other family shelter. Families in crisis can go to the Rescue Mission across the street, but it's a tough choice, for too many reasons to discuss in limited space. As a parent of homeless kids, you have to decide if this risk is worth it. And often parents in crisis don't make the best choices. Neither do I. And sometimes we fail to make sure people in crisis have adequate options. Then we're disappointed at their decisions.
When I first met LC Mayor Ken last year, he didn't know that his community's only shelter for families was shuttered. He was pretty upset about not being told. We've talked since then and he seems genuinely concerned.
Which gets me back to the dead bird analogy. Do we step over, walk around, not look or forget about homeless kids in Las Cruces and across the country? They're not birds, worthy creatures that birds are. These are kids, and parents (some flawed, some not), that seem to get less attention than dead birds.
Seems to me we should put some of our country's misguided passions into something that counts. Making sure families in crisis have a safe place to go, and adequate supports to get them back on their feet, would be a good place to start. With over 1.5 million kids, including hundreds of thousands under the age of 5, we've got our work cut out for us, unless we want to wait and do the human version of scraping these kids off our streets.