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, December 29, 2014

American Christmas Celebrations, Not (Homeless) Family Friendly

Christmas spoiler alert: I am not a fan of what Christmas seems to have become here in America.

Beyond that, I'm not a fan of what this country continues to do to millions of families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness.

Like Tina. Here's my latest AlterNet post on her holiday-hell. If you're not going to read it--the bottom line is this gallant mother of 7 children is right now scrambling around to move her family into a small house trailer before Jan. 1.

The kicker--she's got to wait for the local housing authority to inspect the 3-BR trailer she's located to move into to make sure it's up to the HUD (US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development) standards. Factor in double holidays at the end of this month and she'll be lucky to make this all happen. If she doesn't, her family will be on the streets in a city without a family shelter.

She didn't procrastinate. Her landlord gave her exactly 30 days notice as required. She jumped right into the search, list of potential housing units in hand. When they weren't panning out, she pleaded for an extension but no go. Speculation is that he's losing the house where her family's lived for this past year. They've gotta go.

I don't know, but I'm thinking Tina and her kids probably aren't enjoying this commercially-motivated Christmas season. And I know they're not the only families suffering from house-lessness, hunger and other maladies during this time of year when most of us are involved in parties, time off from work with pay, shopping and ripping into presents. Scant media attention is given to these unfortunate millions, with a smattering of feel-good stories about Christmas cookies and Barbie dolls being shared with shelter kids.

Here's stuff most people don't know about how millions of our nation's most vulnerable families are housed:

  • Subsidized housing, which pays the balance of rent after 30%, using our tax dollars, is only available for about 25% of those who really need it.
  • Tenants must pay utilities and deposits, often hundreds of dollars.
  • Strict rules govern tenants' behavior--and being kicked out of housing or falling behind on rent can blemish their record to the point of banning them from this program.
  • Family/friends who need a place to stay can't bunk with their subsidized housing friend/family member. Guests are limited to 10 days...and pushing that can get everyone tossed to the streets.
  • Family/friends with felony records are typically banned from subsidized housing properties.
  • With 30 days notice, at the end of the lease period, the owner can tell the tenant to move. No recourse. 
Housing authorities oversee subsidized housing. They get federal funds. HUD's budget, now about $45 billion, despite the increased population and soaring poverty and homelessness, has been drastically slashed by the housed Members of Congress over the past 3 decades. That doesn't take into account The Sequester, when HUD's budget took an additional and devastating 10% hit.

Imagine--please--what Tina's family is going through now. No tree or Christmas celebration for the kids. Her truck's axle broke the other day, adding to her fiscal duress. She's scrambling around gathering boxes, shoving stuff in it, and getting her older kids (14 YO) to help. Stress, stress and more stress. 

Before you label Tina's family as freeloaders, dependent on government assistance, swallow this bitter pill:

According to WRAP, the recent big corporate bailout cost taxpayers over $800 BILLION, far exceeding the entire homelessness/housing assistance budget for 3 decades.
In the spirit of anti-commercial-Christmas, I'd call on a boycott of this carnage called "Christmas" until the most vulnerable families in this country have what they need to (at least) humanly survive. I'm guessing that even Jesus would approve.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Perfect Gift for Teachers! Inside Story of Homeless Children and Youth

Pardon the self-serving nature of this post, but as a former teacher and a former shelter director, I feel
qualified to offer this suggestion. And I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is...*

Instead of giving your kid's favorite teacher a coffee mug or McDonald's gift certificate, how about a gift that will not only be useful, but might just help homeless kids in your community? (This suggestion works for others on your gift list, too!)

My Own Four Walls is a collection of heart-touching short documentaries that focus on children and youth experiencing homelessness. (Watch the 4-min trailer.)
Based on hundreds of film screenings I've conducted over the years, MOFW touches hearts and opens minds better than anyone can imagine. It's a myth-buster. It lets audiences hear from kids who know what homelessness is like because they live it.
With all the attention given to the surging increase of homelessness among children and youth lately, it might be good for schools to have a versatile, effective video tool to help staff and students better understand what "being homeless" means to kids.

* In the spirit of Christmas, HEAR US is offering the DVD at half-price, $20 plus $6 shipping/handling. It means that much to get these award-winning DVDs seen by as many eyes as possible.

There. Short. Sweet. To the point. Now order the DVD so I can get it to you in time for the holidays.