invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 1,500,000 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, September 16, 2010

Shocking Reality is the Reality for Low-Income Moms

(Oh, my poor neglected invisible homeless kids blog...so sorry. Hope you're catching my Friday posts on Change.org Poverty in America)

The ongoing saga of Melissa and her family continues to enrich me with, um, shocking experiences. Tonight's phone conversation--her kids squawking kid-like in the background, me enveloped with Tillie-peace--was about lots of things, but mostly money. In the 2-1/2 weeks since our paths have crossed, HEAR US has raised about $2000 to keep her afloat, one step from joining the ranks of millions of homeless families. She's more than appreciative, and is trying her darndest to make it work.

First off, afloat is relative. She and her 5 kids are in a modest motel "suite" for $55 a night. It's better than the streets, for sure. And it's better than the rotating emergency shelter program. Imagine, if you can, schlepping 5 little ones (10, 5, 4, 2, and 6 mo.) in/out of shelters--7 p.m. to 7 a.m., in and out of her beater van with astronomical gas, maintenance and insurance costs, and not knowing if they'd even be able to stay, with shelter overcrowding so common.

Anyhow, the shock...came to me when she said how much she had to pay for formula. Her little guy needs to eat. To be blunt, she can't produce breast milk. So formula is the answer. She told me his formula was $300 a month. I thought she did the math wrong. She didn't. Here's ubiquitious WalMart's pricing (http://www.walmart.com/ip/Enfamil-Gentlease-Lipil-Powder-Formula-24-oz-Can-4-pack/14234644?findingMethod=rr#Q%26A+Exchange). Follow the link. Scroll down. More shocks....

"Financing" is offered on purchase of $250+. Couple cases of formula (not even enough to get you through the month) and diapers and wipes to catch the outgoing, er, by-products. That will get you over the $250 mark easily. Bill Me Later "service," aka payday loan substitute, is brought to you by the fine folks of EBay. More about this scheme/scam some other day... and onto the next shocker....

Not knowing anything about baby formula, I got busy looking. Doesn't WIC provide formula? Yup. Melissa had been on it, but missed an appointment with her unplanned move interrupting her mail delivery. Next opportunity is not for another 6 weeks. Looking at some official explanations about WIC (Women, Infants and Children), the government effort to keep babies nourished, I was yet again shocked. In 2000, formula sold for about $3-4 a can. Now it's over $25?? (http://www.ers.usda.gov/AmberWaves/September04/Features/infantformula.htm) Holy cow! What's with that? Another story for another day...back to moms...

So babies need to eat. Poor moms. Yeah, poor moms who don't get WIC. Decide between paying the rent and paying the baby formula hucksters. I'd bet my lunch money I'd be shocked at diaper prices too. Poor food pantries try to supplement the inevitable gap in nutrients for babies if donors come forth. Not every family can get to the pantry. I vaguely remember hearing about retailers locking up formula to prevent theft. This could explain it. So we'd lock up the mom caught stealing formula to feed her baby. Now, that is outrageous...which makes it fit in perfectly with today's totally out of balance realities.

Babies, in their most formative phase of their lives, depend on good nutrition. I'd question a product that is primarily corn syrup solids, but that is yet another story for another day. Formula, too expensive for anyone but wealthy families to afford--unless you're getting WIC, which is subsidized by taxpayers, mostly none the wiser about how these companies set up monopolies and jack-up prices that the goverment pays, ransom I'd say, so babies can have a half-chance to grow up sort of healthy.

Seems to me we're being bamboozled, and poverty-stuck parents are being robbed every time they plunk down their hard-earned money to buy a drink that will nourish their babies. Robbing the poor to give to the rich. Where have we heard that before?