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....

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Could It Be?

As the ever-growing ranks of homeless children and youth continue the tragic upwards climb, some glimmers of hope need to be nurtured, much like the damp kindling in a campfire.

Last month, from what I imagine to be the dark DC basement where the Government Accounting Office (GAO) probably operates, a hugely-significant report was issued. This document validated what many of us have been saying for years--that the too-narrow definition of "homeless" confuses Congress, and worse, keeps too many families, youth and individuals from getting the life-saving help they need.

Vindication isn't what we're after, though I'd have to admit it feels good. Some of the so-called (and unnamed in this post anyhow, but look in my previous posts if you're curious) national advocacy groups had fought a change of definition. One Senate staffer told me it would "open a floodgate" if we increased the number of homeless people by changing the definition to what I and others believe is reality. We're not there yet--but having an official government publication on our side helps.

The other glimmer of hope comes from an unlikely place--Congress. The newly-formed Congressional Caucus on Homelessness has the potential to generate more comprehensive discussion, perhaps leading to action, on this long-ignored issue afflicting millions in our country.

One of the caucus chairs, my Congresswoman, Judy Biggert, recently spoke at the premiere screening of "Homeless: Motel Kids in Orange County," a new documentary airing on 7/26 on HBO. As the title suggests, the richest county in the country has kids, with their families, living in motels. I previewed the film and, despite my vast experiences with families in motels, I was aghast at what I saw.

At the DC screening the other night, Judy Biggert addressed the bipartisan, diverse audience assembled. Her remarks pave the way for progress on this solvable plight. Maybe I'm reading too much into her comments,
"...join me in sharing our passion with others, and pushing Congress to redouble its efforts to ensure that homeless kids have access to secure, stable housing and the same educational opportunities that millions of Americans take for granted."
What can you do? A few things quickly and easily:

Seems to me, given the unprecedented gridlock gridding and locking immobilizing our national policymakers, that perhaps our hopes rest in the little children, leading the adults to realize that if we don't do something to change our destructive trajectory we're doomed.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tree Houses vs. No Houses: Is it Right?

I spent the July 4th holiday at a parade like countless other Americans. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, which I don't do well, I volunteered to take pix for my sister and brother-in-law's builder who wanted their 54 Chevy (or do I need to say Chevrolet?!) to pull his float. It was a beautiful day. The town of Blowing Rock, NC, quaint and vibrant, had people lining the streets, in some places 10-deep, to see this modest parade. Yet I was troubled....

First off, the white-faced crowd belies the reality of multiracial America. Where were people of color?

Most ironic for me, however, was the tree-house. Me, the voice in the wind on behalf of children without houses, accompanying a well-built domicile that will land in a stately tree in the builder's backyard, an instant mecca for neighborhood kids. I'm not begrudging these kids their house, but I wonder what it will take to make sure all kids in America have a house, a secure modest place, to put their heads at night?

The latest grossly understated homeless government figures on the plight of homeless children, teens and adults reminds me of the pathetic attempts by BP to mask the dreadful reality of how much oil spills from the gushing Gulf well. Well, it's not so bad. Like hell. Even 1 family is too many. Millions--unacceptable.

The Obama administration just released "Opening Doors," a revised plan (pdf) on addressing skyrocketing homelessness, and they at least mention families, albeit minimizing the quantity that lack a place to call home. Furthermore, the resources to carry out the plan, well, let's say we'll have to wait and see. But if your family was the one experiencing homelessness, a wait-and-see attitude would be impossible. Outrage, yes. Patience, no.

Millions of kids this summer are spending their time dreading each day instead of splashing around in a cool pool. Their parents struggle for survival, and the kids pick up on that, absorbing anxiety instead of enjoying childhood. Night-by-night "plans" of where to sleep, day-by-day agendas of where to hang out, worrying that "back to school" time will be a battle because of a lack of permanent address. More and more kids are traumatized by homelessness and poverty...and some kids, by virtue of birth and "luck," will have a place to call home, and a refuge in a tree to boot.

Seems to me that strengthening the human infrastructure of America should be the first task on our national agenda. Spending our nation's dwindling resources destroying countries and killing in the name of peace haven't proven effective for them or us. And it makes a lousy excuse that fails to explain why some kids have tree-houses and some have no houses.