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, August 20, 2011

Michigan Tourism Slogan--the Canary in the Coal Mine?

Michigan, with their miles of dunes along miles of Lake Michigan and Chicago area pols hot-footing it down sandy sidewalks in picturesque vacation getaways, spends good money for their catchy new tourism slogans, now Pure Michigan, from Great Lakes, Great Times, and Say Yes to Michigan....

No matter, because the more popular signs in the beleaguered Wolverine State, tarnished by the tanking of the auto business and what was left of commerce, now feature for sale by owner, for rent, and closed signs.  Michigan can teach us something. They've increased their tourism budget to attract people to the once-popular vacation land. (One would wonder who's getting all the money...but that's another topic for another blogger I hope.)

Sadly, the state once known for beaches, tulips and cherries is now close to dying. Because the symptoms are little—as in kids—few pay attention. While nationally the number of kids in poverty (household income $22,000 or less) has reached an alarming (to some of us) 25% according to Kids Count 2011, the number of kids in Michigan living in poverty soared 64%, with 75,000 kids added to the already dismayingly high numbers, which includes over 20,000 homeless children.

Take a look at the years since I've been on the road under the HEAR US banner--since November 2005. Way back then MI had 459,000 kids living in poverty. The number now is 520,000 (for 2009, the latest data reported). That's quite an increase.

I'm not a number cruncher, but the availability of detailed data in this respected report got my attention:

  • 249,000 kids in extreme poverty (that's 1/2 the measly, inadequate poverty rate). 
  • 709,000 kids living in households spending more than the acceptable amount of 30% on housing
  • 735,401 kids getting free or reduced lunch
  • 340,169 babies and toddlers (0-4) receiving WIC (Women, Infants and Children). 

Enough data. Look up your own state. Get locally appalled.

(This is where the rabid nay-sayers chime in and say women shouldn't have babies. We should cut people off the benefit trough and let them fend for themselves. Stick a sock in it.)

Folks up in MI aren't just sitting around pining (bad pun) about these problems. The MI League for Human Services offers suggestions:

Here in Michigan we should focus our attention on:
  • Expanding programs, such job training and postsecondary education for unemployed and low-income parents and the Earned Income Tax Credit to supplement low wages; these programs promote economic success for families.
  • Implementing programs and disbursing funds that help more families negotiate the foreclosure process; Michigan has $498 million in federal funds to help families in foreclosure.
  • Enacting the reforms, such as including part-time workers, to the unemployment system that would recognize the changes in the world of work and bring another $139 million of federal funding into the state.
    – Jane Zehnder-Merrell

Yeah. That's gonna happen with Gov. Snyder whacking away at anything that resembles human services.

For those applauding Guv Ax-Assistance, let me point out the hard truth. Ignore human needs today and pay more tomorrow. It's a lesson that needs to become the new Michigan slogan.

I'm so outraged about this and every other state's skyrocketing poverty I hardly know what to say or do. I can cry for the kids, but that won't help. So the small band of us working hard to make sure kids get an education, even if they don't have homes, will continue our efforts.

Not to get all scriptural, but The poor shall inherit the earth comes to mind. Hmmm. That makes a great slogan for MI tourism. Wonder what they'd be willing to pay me?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Diane, for speaking out for all of our invisible homeless kids in Michigan! Keep telling it like it is! We need you as our champion and advocate! (Wait until you see our homeless student counts in the 2010-11 report!)