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, February 4, 2012

Tired of the BS from 'Advocates'

Photo (C) Pat Van Doren
I worry that things are so screwy that we'll "eat our young" as we all scramble for a piece of the dwindling, vulnerable federal human services pie. It seems that a group of so-called advocates and unenlightened legislators are poised to do just that--"eat" homeless kids by depriving the majority of them of assistance otherwise available for homeless kids staying in shelters.

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!

2 comments:

Haley Madden said...

Hi Diane,

I wanted to begin by telling you what pulled me towards following your blog is your blatant honesty and recognition of the real issues. You make it clear that at this point the issue us much bigger than homelessness, but instead we need to look at how it is being handled. We must consider the standards set for determining, "how homeless you are." At this point, to me, we have too big a focus on identifying who is homeless as opposed to identifying out course of action for decreasing this ridiculous number. Towards the end of your post, I think you hit the nail right on the head when you comment on the supposed "advocates." The issue at hand is simple: those "working" to bring change and essentially end the issue of homelessness do not know what they are working for anymore. They have lost sight of what is important: the families. I just started a community service blog and you put a lot in perspective and because of your blog, I want to work harder to really address the issues. Love your blog and I look forward to seeing what you tackle next.

Jessica said...

Thanks for this post.

We didn't realize until the NAEH conference this past weekend how rare it was that our organization (SPY) was entirely volunteer run––we have a phenomenal group, all 100% volunteers, from the Executive Director and Board on down, and we're focusing on helping homeless youth in Venice.

Let's definitely keep in touch – I'm sure there will be plenty of opportunities to collaborate in the future.

Feel free to follow us on Facebook.com/SafePlaceforYouth or Twitter @SafePlace4Youth – obviously we'd love to connect with you! (website= safeplaceforyouth.org)

Thanks again.