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, December 9, 2011

Disappointing That I'm Not Disappointed

Never a shortage of topics to spew about. I just read the description of looming changes in the way homeless families and youth will be treated by HUD, the agency our federal government charges with overseeing programs to end homelessness.

I have to scream, on behalf of all who will undoubtedly be harmed by these changes,

Having run a shelter for many years, I am painfully aware of the too-little-staff syndrome that causes shortcuts to be taken, some potentially harmful. I'm also painfully aware of things on the other side--those needing help, families and youth, who are in a traumatized crisis mode, hitting brick wall after brick wall. Well, HUD has just thrown up a huge brick wall. For what?

The issue surrounding the definition of homelessness (my previous blog), a benign sounding topic if you've ever heard one, is huge. HUD and some so-called national advocacy groups have belligerently fought to protect their absurdly narrow definition of homelessness that boils down to the individuals who fit the stereotype of homelessness--the bedraggled man or woman with multiple maladies. In reality, that's probably about 10% of the homeless population, but it's the segment that some folks love to hate. Their position boils down to: we don't have enough resources, let's not expand the definition to others  needing a piece of the pie.
Backing away from pushing for more resources and better policies is, in my humble opinion, a chicken-shit way of advocacy. Co-opting your organization's mission to get government money, as at least 1 homeless advocacy group has done, destroys their integrity, but it gives them the money to buy influence.
HUD doesn't get enough money to meet the needs of even a small percentage of homeless people. Since the late 1970s (not mentioning the president who took over then), HUD funding has been brutally slashed (fact sheet). No surprise, as mental hospitals started shutting down in the early 80s, ostensibly to "better serve" these beleaguered adults in local communities, these poor souls got, um, lost on the way. Thus was born modern bulk homelessness.

Predictably, some of these individuals in their dire situations, plus the growing homeless veteran population, didn't endear themselves to elected officials. Their bedraggled appearance and eccentric behavior fed stereotypes of crazy people on the streets. In true "trickle-up" tradition, shop owners complained to mayors, who turned to county officials, to state, and to feds. Well, let's make their lives miserable (and fast-track them into prison), slashing services and housing assistance budgets seems to be their response. And so it went, spiraling to families, teens, and anyone else that might find themselves in the tough spot of poverty.

Seeing the vigor that HUD and its cronies put into fighting those of us who want to expand the definition, I'm not surprised the new regs (spell check shows the correct spelling as "dregs," an apt translation) are so brutal. They impose impossible standards of proof (pdf) upon both homeless persons and the shelters wanting to serve them.

Next week, a determined group of advocates will face members of Congress and ask them why they feel compelled to further harm homeless families and youth. Harm. That's a mild word for those who have been through so much. Those traveling with me to DC will not be soft on their elected officials. I'm going to stand back and let them have the voice and visibility that may convince some lawmakers of the pending disaster.

Seems to me it's time to have a big Occupy camp-out on the lawn of the Capitol. Just don't put HUD in charge of who can stay there. They'll call in the riot police to keep out the moms and kids.


Matthew S. Kennedy said...

Very cool Blog... I have a website called, “California Homeless Resources”. and a blog dedicated to the homeless as well:

Russell Logan said...

This is an amazing website. I love that we are all spreading awareness. I encourage all of teenagers out there who are helping keep other kids off the street to enter the same contest I did. Many teens who donate their time to helping others can submit a few videos of their community service to this online contest. They could win up to $10,000 in scholarship money.
I just entered and am encouraging others to follow my lead:)God Bless