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, October 1, 2012

This. Is. Tough.

Tough. Tough luck. Tough break. Tough life.

“Amanda” has it tough. And she knows it. Her 3 little boys struggle with a long list of troubles—ADHD, seizures, bipolar, and more. Her single-parent status changed last year with marriage to “Jake,” by all accounts a good husband and father. But he’s out of work. So is she, and the practical considerations of getting a job are as remote as walking to the Antarctic.

They’ve been homeless a while—and are now by my standards and that of the US Department of Education still homeless. 3 boys and 2 adults living in 2 small rooms isn’t anything but homelessness. They’re swirling in the desperate storm of medical issues, mental health crises, and abject cramped poverty. And they have a lot to lose if things get worse.

Stress begets stress. The family’s dire day-to-day reality has caused their resolve to crumble. The boys acted out in school, so now they are “home” schooled. If you can imagine home-schooling 3 little guys filled with anxiety squeezed into a closet-sized space…not ideal, but the school district has tossed the job to these parents.

They have no choice but to fall behind on rent, utilities, and other bills because they have to take their youngest to multitudes of doctors, making gas companies rich and this family, if possible, poorer. Mom astutely observes, “No one’s gonna hire either of us because we’d always have to take off work to take ‘Joey’ to the doctor.” And she’s right. They’ve made the right choice, and pay the price.

These stalwart parents are trying their best to hang on as the slope gets unimaginably steeper. I wouldn’t be able to handle their job for 5 minutes. Nor would Mitt, Paul, or I suspect Barrack and Joe. Even Santa would struggle. I’m seldom at a loss of words, but this family—not, sadly, an anomaly—has me stymied.

Without subsidized housing, they’ll not be able to afford an adequately sized place. But waiting lists tend to run in the 3+-year mode. Not good. Child support, bolstering this family’s below poverty level income, is sparse and skimpy. Gas prices shatter their fragile “budget” as they bounce from doctor to doctor in search of answers to their youngest guy’s wasting away. Employment? Out of the question until the big issues are solved. Disability income, meager, has only been granted for one boy, with a long approval process ahead for the others.

So what would our leader and leader-wanna-be propose? Since it appears we’ve discarded our moral responsibility for those who struggle, they’re not our problem. But they are. Letting families like this collapse—they love each other and are willing to fight to survive—will cost us all in the long run.  Absent a mammoth miracle, they’re screwed.

In my dreams I see a presidential candidate debate solely on the issue of poverty. Amanda will ask the tough questions. Jill and Cheri will have the edge. Mitt and Paul will stumble and fall. Barrack and Joe will admit their shortcomings. We can only hope the winners don’t make it even tougher on families like Amanda and Jake’s. But I’m not holding my breath. It’s tough.

"Amanda" reads my Facebook page. Go ahead, comment on this to her. Let her know that people care. 


Nicki Mann said...

I just recently completed my student teaching in a Chicago suburb that is considered pretty high-income. I had two placements, one for five weeks and one for ten weeks. I was shocked at how many children I met in that short time who were in situations like this! One family was staying in a motel room with their four children under the age of 5, one of whom had autism. In fact I've known multiple homeless families that included children with special needs... not being able to put their kids in traditional child care centers, plus all of the additional therapies and services and medications the children require, can make it extremely hard for parents to make ends meet! When people think of homelessness, they don't often think of situations like that.

Diane Nilan said...

Shocking and horrible. Thanks for sharing what seems to be secret stories of how bad things are for families, especially those with far more on their plates than we can imagine. Kudos for your insights!