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....

Saturday, May 21, 2011

We've Failed Little Farmers

Plant it and it will grow, at least in places like Eugene, Oregon. But this progressive, verdant community just learned that a valuable asset, the one place little kids can be during the day to escape homelessness and to learn how to be healthy, happy kids is closing. (read the story)

I witnessed the thrill of 3 - 4 year-old toddlers learning the basics of agriculture from Farmer John who every year volunteers to come to First Place Kids Center to give these little ones the all-important lesson of how food gets to our mouths. They attentively knelt at his side near the raised bed plots behind First Place Center and listened, dug, planted and watered their choice of greens. They inspected the blueberry bushes together, excited about the soon-to-emerge succulent berries.

Sadder than a drought or blight, these love-planted crops will have no knee-high farmers to reap the produce of their efforts. Twenty or so little ones are being booted to the streets by cruel budget cuts. Their cutting-edge day care center that focuses so specially on unique needs of highly-mobile and homeless toddlers, an at-risk population growing like weeds in affluent America. will close their doors on June 3rd. (My 1-min. YouTube video)

Few have paid attention to the fact that homeless toddlers are the largest percentage of this nation's homeless population. This bumper-crop is being neglected in their period of vulnerable growth--when experts say vital developmental occurrences will happen or not--the groundwork for productive lives. We've tossed these little kids under the budget bus.

A combination of local funding cuts from a beleaguered United Way and federal/state support was the one-two punch for 1st Place Kids Center. Now Eugene's homeless families--who must cope with the summer closing of their church-based overnight shelter--now have no safe, nurturing place to plant their little ones while these parents go to work, look for jobs, comply with welfare-mandated appointments, seek housing, etc. They'll walk around town, toddler in tow, navigating weather, municipal codes, and societal restrictions and cope somehow with babies with colic and diaper rash, toddlers with flu and fits, and with every parent's need for time away from crying babies.

These "Littlest Nomads" will learn from the streets. They'll ask about their spinach plants, the blueberries and strawberries hanging on their stems, neglected as these little ones. How do you explain that no one is harvesting this hopeful crop? ACTION: Ask Eugene's Mayor Piercy to intervene before these families learn that their precious little children don't count. Sign this petition.

Seems to me someone has some explaining to do. Why do we pretend to care about nutrition and nurturing when we find it so easy to let these resources go to seed and weed? When will these kids matter? When will we care about spending our money on development--of potential and possibilities--instead of punitive poverty penalties that we've gotten so used to distributing?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Homeless Kids of All Ages Thrown Under the Budget-Busting Bus

The longer I stayed to film at First Place Kids Center in Eugene, OR, the more furious I got. Nothing about this center's pending closing makes any sense. But what does nowadays?

If you think budget cut talk is a bunch of hype, think again. I hear and see worthy efforts being stymied or slashed to death, as is this kids' center, everywhere I turn. The carnage hits all age brackets and all on the poverty spectrum. My bias--it's the little kids that have the most to lose. That's certainly the case for Eugene's "littlest nomads" without this first-class daycare program.

The kids lose. They're in the most crucial development stage of their life. Stimuli, learning opportunities, socialization, nutrition, structure, stability...all of this and more are what they need lots of, in a safe, clean environment. Sorry, despite best effort of parents and shelters, those environments usually lack what these kids need.

Parents lose. Ever try to look for a job or housing with a 3-year-old? Do you feel guilty when you can't provide a decent meal, clean diapers, or just some quality time with your little one? Have you ever spent a rainy, chilly day in a beater-car with your little one(s)? I'll stop here. You get the idea.

We lose. When kids show up to school, they should be school-ready. But kids don't become school-ready magically. It takes loving effort--lots of it--like what I saw at the Kids Center (1-min. video I shot). When kids aren't school ready, their chances of success--at school and life--diminish. You can figure what happens then.

I'd like to be an optimist, but these are not the days for Pollyanna. These are days for Diane the Fire-breathing Dragon. The daily litany of drastic cuts on local, state and federal levels targeting these kids, and the rest makes me agree with my friend Pat LaMarche who penned a powerful HuffPo piece about politicians' contempt for the poor. I can't figure another way to take this. You can tell me if Pat/I are wrong.

Seems to me that we should have been paying closer attention to the riots in Egypt. The injustice they were fighting against, the have-lots' contempt for the poor, is the same thing we're seeing here. The difference--we elected these contemptible hypocrites. You can figure out what needs to be done....