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, October 24, 2010

(Too) Great Expectations?

Although I don't have time to spend getting involved in what is always a vortex of chaos and stress of homeless families, sometimes I do it anyhow. I'm in the midst of not one, but two, um, challenging conundrums right now. Plenty of lessons to be learned....

Situation 1, Melissa A and her family of 5 young kids (10 YO - 7 months) crammed precariously in a motel in DuPage County, the 23rd most affluent county in the country.

Homeless since July after job loss and inevitable bailing before eviction,  this stalwart 24-year-old mom is in the process of redefining "wrecking ball lives." I've hung with her on a few occasions, enough to give me deep admiration for how anyone can manage to juggle incessant wants and needs of her tribe while battling what seems to be the evil forces with little-to-no money.

The latest, it appears renting a car for a credit card-challenged friend 2 months ago as a favor has returned to haunt Melissa. Friday, when checking her precarious bank balance, one fed by meager unemployment checks, she heard a horrible message: "overdrawn by $2000." In shock, she checked into it. Apparently, the car rental company I'll call "hurts" decided to snatch her money to repair what they allege is $2500 damage to the car. According to Melissa, she received NO NOTICE of this pending action. And she's quick to point out that if she inadvertently tries to use her credit/debit card when she lacks funds, the transaction is denied.

I don't know all the facts. And, having signed several car rental agreements laden with lawyerly language printed in tiny type, it's not hard to imagine she signed away her life, tenuous as it is right now. And the hurtful car rental company smelled blood.

To be continued...

Situation 2, my friend Tina and her 5, soon to be 6, boys in Las Cruces, NM. Last we left Tina, she and her boys moved from the minuscule 13' camper into a "real" home, a 3-bedroom single-wide trailer. It had to feel like paradise. This move took an act of God. During it all, she and her little guys endured oppressive heat, bone-chilling cold, and ever-growing claustrophobia as they rode out a seemingly endless bureaucratic trail to end their homelessness.

Tina, about to give birth (take your little comments about her pregnancy and stuff them in your judgmental arse), is looking to the future, 2 months and counting, when her rental agreement and stimulus-fund housing payments are kaput. Now what is she going to do? She flung a text message my way in hopes that I could bring about a miracle.

Part of her unworthiness, according to the local public housing agency, is a $5205 past due balance in another state, where she and her ex lived before she fled. She can't rent from the Las Cruces housing authority unless this balance is paid. She has no way of paying that.

OK, I understand responsibility, but why is it at the expense of a mother and her children, and not her ex? And why are we willing to spend considerably more than $5205 on the damages that will occur to this family (think medical bills, just for starters) in a town that has NO EMERGENCY SHELTER for families? Can anyone besides me see the tragic folly in this?

We are society. It's not "them," the bureaucrats or elected officials. We are responsible for what happens to people in our communities. Involving bureaucrats and elected officials is essential. And we, their employers, must do that. We've allowed rules and laws to overcome common sense and realities, and then wonder why we have such a mess.

Neither mother is an evil person. Nor do they have resources adequate to care for their families. We can condemn their multiple pregnancies all we want, but that does nothing to help. Melissa and kids are at the mercy of rapidly depleting donations that HEAR US has been collecting. Tina and crew are riding the declining wave of federal stimulus funds designed to prevent families from being homeless. These are just 2 of what I can assure you are hundreds of thousands....

HEAR US--yours truly--and Laura Vazquez, media professor at Northern Illinois University, have created a perfect enlightenment tool, "on the edge," a 60-minute documentary featuring 7 women's stories of homelessness. Melissa and Tina would have fit right in. The stories resonate with the realities of countless families nationwide. Urge our leaders to watch "on the edge" by taking 30 seconds to sign this petition. If you have an extra 4 minutes, watch the trailer.

Seems to me we need to inspire and enlighten our President and those responsible for devising our nation's homelessness policies and practices. And if 30 seconds is too much to spend, well, I'll take my judgmental thoughts and....