invisible homeless kids

Hard to imagine that in this country way over 1,700,000 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....

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Numbers Game

Former Boone, NC mansion sitting empty
I hate numbers. Well, not all numbers, just the kind that people chase when trying to make a point. Well, not even those numbers. I guess it boils down to disliking when people make you chase numbers for N O T H I N G.

Take, for example, the recent U.S. Dept. of Education report showing homelessness among school students has soared over the 1 million mark. These numbers have been gathered each year since the latest version of the McKinney-Vento homeless education act passed in 2002. Districts have been improving at their identifying homeless kids, I'd like to think in part because of efforts of HEAR US Inc. and our amazing documentary (My Own Four Walls) and other efforts. (Check out this latest HufPo article that mentions the work of HEAR US!)

Each year, as Congress contemplates budgetary decisions, do they actually consider the numbers of homeless students? Um, nope. The chump change tossed at this issue to help schools help homeless kids has remained pretty static and severely inadequate, about $70 million. About 3,500 school districts (out of approximately 10,000 nationally) receive funding, a mere dusting. And many have been cut out of this funding dribble.

Ever since the beginning of the federal involvement in homelessness (solution-wise), back in 1987 under the guise of the McKinney Act, advocates have tried to squeeze money for the issue of homelessness. The response has always been "show us the numbers; document the need." So good lil' doo-bees that we are, we'd go out and gather numbers, dutifully turning them in at the end of the year. For what? We're about to commemorate the McKinney-Vento Act anniversary. Has our nation made progress on homelessness? Not from the perspective of homeless people, with their numbers soaring upwards.

Some would argue that these numbers have helped generate resources. Pardon my scoffing. Have they helped to the extent that homelessness has been significantly reduced? No!

We're playing a game with feds who have no intention of providing real solutions to address homelessness. These same policymakers deftly toss billions to banks, the institutions who hang onto a bunch of housing stock that sits empty while families and youth (and single men and women) stumble about on our streets seeking shelter.

School districts decry the money they have to spend on busing and other services for homeless kids. I say, smarten up! Get some leaders in your community to figure out how to utilize abandoned housing to reduce family and youth homelessness, thus making transportation costs moot.

It's cheaper. Do the math. Let me show you the numbers.


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