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....

Monday, August 6, 2012

We Proved It. Now What?

"Prove it," my boss demanded before she would agree to my request for a raise. "Prove you really deserve more money." I scrambled off, determined...sometimes I won, sometimes not.

I've been around the world of homelessness since before the government hid behind the McKinney-Vento Homelessness Assistance Act which passed in 1987. I say "hid behind" because it's been mostly a progression of lackluster efforts, especially from the standpoint of anyone who's been homeless.

I figured it for a smoke screen, but we all pursued the counting angels on the head of a pin nature of documenting how many homeless kids are out here with hope that the huge numbers would bring about a change of the bureaucratic stone-heart and loosen resources to help these kids.

I'm not a numbers person, but I have to say the efforts and results have been impressive. The Huffington Post article that highlighted that issue pointed out:
The government report said 1,065,794 homeless kids were enrolled in schools in the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of 13 percent from the previous year and 57 percent since the start of the recession in 2007.
Consider the daunting challenge of counting homeless children and youth: Families/youth are ashamed, therefore don't volunteer the information to schools about their plight. Parents fear the kids will be removed from their care because of homelessness. Kids don't want to be made to change schools, and despite a 10-year-old federal law that says that won't happen (McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children Act), it occasionally does (not if we can help it).

Important clarification about the 1 million number. It represents probably half the kids in school who are homeless. It doesn't include their younger siblings--Littlest Nomads--the babies and toddlers not in school, or the teens and young adults out of school and homeless. Some of us believe those numbers, plus the parents of kids in this dire situation, would add at least 3-4 million to the count.

And what do those numbers mean? Nothing.
The resources to help homeless students, under our favorite federal law, the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children Act, are less than what it costs to maintain 70 soldiers in Afghanistan, about $70 mil. Less than 10% of the 16k school districts nationwide get any of that money that Congress still needs to appropriate.
If you need a textbook example of how bad this gross negligence of homeless kids is, take the example of Albuquerque, NM, a decent city of about 500k. They recently reported over 4,000 homeless kids UNDER THE AGE OF 6!! Those do-nothing Littlest Nomads freeloaders....

Think how it could have been different--if all the money tossed at bean-counters, software, and meaningless reports to Congress could have been used to, um, house and help families and youth who  desperately cling to hope that we'll stop dinking around and start using what we have to actually address homelessness instead of dither.

So, as HEAR US Inc. enters our 8th (yup, that's right!) year, I'm vowing to pull out all the stops in throwing these astonishing and dismaying numbers in the faces of policymakers, no matter what or how.

Stay tuned! (Follow my travels on Facebook. Keep up with HEAR US on Facebook too.) I can promise it's gonna get, um, interesting, way more than the bean-counters expect.