|Photo (C) Pat Van Doren|
Gosh, this homeless definition issue is getting so drawn out that it makes me shake my head in wonderment. I dug through my email trash to look at what the young-eaters give for reasons to oppose forcing Congress to help more homeless kids. Shameful. I'll let their words speak for this atrocious form of advocacy.
If HR 32 (The Homeless Children and Youth Act) were enacted, children who are now defined as homeless, including those who are fleeing domestic violence, living in dangerous situations, or literally sleeping outside, would be forced to compete for scarce resources with millions more who have the advantage of a more stable apartment or house to sleep in every night.As NAEHCY Policy Director Barbara so adamantly points out, "Defining a problem by the funding currently available to address it is nonsensical. Congress needs to know who and how many people are without housing in order to devise effective solutions. A narrow definition of homelessness does nothing to reduce the number of people living without their own homes. It simply gives policymakers an unrealistic view of the scope of the problem.
I'd be even more caustic. Continuing a failed policy of counting homeless people, spending money and volunteer/staff time each year to do so, to produce the absolutely bogus AHAR (Annual Homeless Assessment Report...or the capital of Ahar County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran) is irrational and unconscionable. Furthermore, the last thing we need to do is confuse Congress on matters of poverty.
... HR 32, if enacted, would expand the definition of homelessness to include an additional 2,351,762 low-income housed children each year, who, although their housing may be poor, are not literally homeless (my underline).The esteemed Barbara Duffield rebuts, "H.R. 32, will not require communities to spend HUD funding on doubled-up and motel families and youth. It simply gives them the flexibility to do so when these families and youth need HUD homeless services...Vulnerability determinations must be done on a local, individual basis, after gathering as many facts as possible. Congress is not in a position to decide the relative vulnerability of individual children and adults in communities across the county."
My good friend Pat LaMarche took a swing at this issue in her Christmas HufPo column following the testimony of 6 supremely courageous and articulate kids who testified to Congress about the agony of homelessness (the non-HUD kind). She gets it. She ran a shelter for a few years.
And I'd add that the time and energy we've spent on this issue is time wasted. Not so much for policy-wonks but for families and youth being excluded from possibly getting emergency assistance. How can you look a kid or a desperate parent in the face and say they're not homeless enough...when they are as homeless as the next person, and possibly suffering abuse, among other common experiences? Not "literally homeless"? That reference pushes me over the edge. When do we get to splitting hairs over who's homeless, more homeless, most homeless? I can't even go there. Nor should they.
Had I not just witnessed the debacle between The Susan G. Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood, I'd think our advocacy wars were unusual. In case you missed it, here's the powerful and poignant response on this life-threatening issue as courageously and vociferously offered by Linda, a woman whose own experience with breast cancer gives her the right to weigh in, which she did. Catch her last line.
I'll be looking for an outraged parent or kid who is willing to go on record like Linda did about the atrocious behavior of "advocates" and public officials that think our pathetic level of assistance directed to the crisis of homelessness is enough. But until then, I'll close with some thoughts of my own...
To pretend that you have any comprehension of the anguish, agony and hopelessness of homelessness is absolute bull shit. To shy away from a united and forceful campaign to begin to relieve millions of people in this country from the sufferings of homelessness makes me disregard your efforts entirely.If you wish to act upon this outrage, check the HEAR US website, Compassion Epidemic, Hot Alert!