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....

Friday, July 1, 2011

It Really Is About the Children

These young children enjoyed the book Sarah gave them.
About 15 years ago, my friend, Pat Van Doren, started a project, It's About the ChildrenPat and her effort are now part of HEAR US Inc., our unconventional effort to prick the nation's conscience about the invisible homeless children and youth population.

Recently I've traveled coast-to-coast, filming for our new Littlest Nomads project. We're trying to sound the alarm about the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of little babies and toddlers growing up without a home during their most important time of development.

Sarah Benjamin, a McKinney-Vento funded homeless early childhood teacher and advocate from Long Island took me around to families in her program willing to let me "invade" with my camera. These kids, whose families had experienced various forms of homelessness (doubled-up, in motels, in shelters), benefited immensely by once a week "home" visits from Sarah and her colleagues. Despite high mobility, families had a strong link and continually received valuable resources, guidance and support to keep them involved in their toddlers' vital development. Witnessing the interaction between Sarah and the families touched my heart!

On an entirely different, disturbing level was the recent report of no increase of homeless persons during this brutal recession. Disturbing? You betcha! The National Alliance to End Homelessness reviewed the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) that Congress receives from HUD. I dunno. Leading the NAEH press release with No Increase In Homelessness Despite the Recession strikes me as a tad, um, delusional.

I've never had much use for the AHAR-generating Point-in-Time counts, the late-January best-faith effort to enumerate homeless persons in communities receiving HUD funding. One reason--they tend to totally overlook the invisible homeless family and youth population. And they ignore the many communities not receiving HUD funding. Even the Government Accounting Office took issue with these reports and related topics last year, citing rampant confusion in HUD's efforts.

NAEH staff, HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness,
Congress and our President should be made to listen to this traumatized
baby wailing on this church floor (aka homeless shelter of the night).
Congress gets AHAR and feels "good" about HUD's progress. NAEH touting HUD's success is, in my humble opinion, disingenuous at best.

Homelessness--for adults and children--is traumatic and not acceptable. And the half-ass way this nation has been pretending to address it--the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987 signed into law 24 years ago--the abysmally under-funded, discombobulated, bamboozling "approach" to "ending homelessness," is a travesty at best.

Whatever M-V success--and some has occurred--is commendable. But don't think that these accomplishments have reached coast-to-coast or in any way solved the problem. And for every family or individual who gets the well-intentioned, sincere help returning to a place to call home, or gets an education, countless others fall into the vortex.

Homeless programs are an easy target for the ruthless budget-balancing-bobble-heads wanting to rob from the poor and give to the rich. But it doesn't have to be that way. 
I invite--no, urge--you to join me and tens of thousands of like-minded concerned Americans to urge President Obama to take a stand that will protect our vulnerable infants, children, elders, and others from the otherwise inevitable budget slashing. Co-sign Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) letter.
Seems to me the message Pat Van Doren created years ago is even more essential today. It's About the Children...or we'll all be sorry.

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