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....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Homeless: What About ‘Nowhere To Go’ Does HUD Not Understand?

For the agency charged with “utilizing housing as a platform for improving quality of life,” assuming that includes those with nowhere to go, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, HUD, has yet to step up to the task for millions of families and youth with nowhere to go. 
Peruse the stories of parents and kids with nowhere to go on www.helphomelesskidsnow.org.
For the past 3 decades, our country has abdicated its responsibility to those most vulnerable—children and youth, some with parents, some without, who have nowhere to go. "The most dramatic cut in domestic spending during the Reagan years was for low-income housing subsidies. In his first year in office, Reagan cut the budget for public housing and Section 8 rent subsidies in half," points out Peter Dreier in his Nation post.

When I say “nowhere to go” I mean nowhere. Most don't realize how little help is available for families and youth with nowhere to go.

Few communities have programs (not decimated by funding cuts) to help families/youth with nowhere to go. A frightening number of people seeking a place to stay are routinely turned away. 

During my 9 years of HEAR US travel, I’ve been to many communities with little or no assistance for families/youth. I’ve sat in sleazy motel rooms listening to desperate parents. I’ve stood on street corners talking to youth who didn’t know where they were going to sleep that night, much less do their homework. I've listened to kids describe their sucky lives (watch 4-min trailer). 

Having run a shelter for 15 years, only open 9 months of the year because we lacked volunteers and resources for a year round program, I dreaded answering phones in the summer when we weren’t open. Invariably I’d end up talking to a distraught mother with small children looking to escape abject poverty, violence and abuse. And I’d have to say, “Sorry, we can’t help and no other program in the area exists to help.”

No matter how kindly I delivered the bad news, it was bad. The family with nowhere to go ends up in a desperate situation beyond the imagination of many people. The youth with nowhere to go does what she/he can do to survive, at high risk of getting caught up in perilous circumstances. 

Knowing that millions of babies, toddlers, children, youth, young adults and parents of children have nowhere to go compels us to fight to change the way HUD defines homelessness. And a fight it has been.

But those of us fighting for homeless kids don’t just give up. We’ve heard and seen too much—kids and parents with nowhere to go, torn up by stress, hunger, sickness, despair, desolation. We’ve seen lives lost, promise turn into disaster.

HUD’s involvement with homeless families has always reminded me of the rigid bachelor uncle who is not used to being around kids. Paltry assistance. Insensitive involvement. Resentful when asked for more help. Clueless about what it means to have nowhere to go.

The bipartisan legislation recently introduced in Congress, the Homeless Children and Youth Act of 2014, will begin to turn things around for the way HUD deals with homelessness. 
  • It frees up local communities to decide to create solutions and services for families/youth with nowhere to go, unlike the current approach. 
  • It removes bizarre bureaucratic barriers that force families/youth to give up whatever precarious arrangements they have cobbled together—a shabby, budget-busting motel room, a cruel relative with unreasonable expectations, an abuser who knows the abused partner has no options—to become ‘more homeless’ to maybe qualify for admittance into a shelter. 
  • It gives families/youth a shot at getting help from whatever agencies might offer shelter and services.
Knowing the desperate need of families/youth with nowhere to go, I can’t help but be
dismazed at those who continue to oppose this bill. No explanation they throw out makes any sense when pitted against the devastating circumstances of having nowhere to go.

It’s up to us to break through this impasse. We need more legislative sponsors. We need to raise hell until sufficient pressure pushes Congress to insist on HUD creating a more effective way of helping families/youth with nowhere to go
ACTION! You can do something about this in mere moments. No money, just 30 or so seconds of your time. Picture what it would mean to have nowhere to go, then ACT (CLICK HERE)! If you’re really convinced that change needs to happen, share the action page with your friends.
HUD won’t change until we force the issue. Some Members of Congress are ready to act. But they need a push. That’s where we come in.