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....

Friday, September 25, 2015

Does Compassion Still Have a Place in the U.S.? Homeless Kids Want To Know

 I was one of millions enthralled to watch and listen to Pope Francis address Congress. Sure, my evil self wanted him to flog the recalcitrant, heartless members. But the Pope's compassion prevailed, not before he gave them, and us, a papal prodding.

Throughout his visit, he's constantly calling attention to the poor, homeless, downtrodden and forgotten. I couldn’t be happier that this growing segment of our nation’s adults and kids finally get attention. Now, to turn attention to compassion.

Realizing that immeasurable good is done behind the scenes every day, I still hope that more will be done. I’ve seen firsthand, nationwide, the suffering of families and youth who lack a place to call home. 

For the past 30 years that I’ve been working in, for and among those clumped together as “the poor” and “the homeless,” I’ve seen a frightening growth in their numbers, and an atrocious reduction of resources needed to survive, much less thrive. Recent reports of our nation’s (lack of) progress on reducing poverty, and alarming documentation of soaring homelessness among students (and their families) confirms what I’ve seen in my HEAR US travels: more families, youth and adults are struggling to escape the shackles of poverty and homelessness. 

Recently I spoke with one of the women I met in Kansas this year during my filming of Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS (click to watch).  Her plight, and that of her young daughter, was and is dire. Her path out? Well, let me say she’d have better luck winning the lottery than escaping her doubled up situation. 

The other day I heard from a friend about what she’s doing in her community to help—a vital service—giving a homeless college student a place to stay over holidays when the dorms are closed. Sweet!

What makes a difference in the lives of the families and youth without housing? Plenty, large and small (check our HEAR US compassion epidemic list, a 1-pg. menu): 
  • Housing, a given, with advocacy to make more housing available being one place to get involved. 
  • Education, another biggie, should be happening all over the country, thanks to the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education program
  • Basic needs—supplies, clothing, shoes; food; medical supplies, etc.
  • One-to-one help—tutoring, mentoring, etc. 
  • Support your favorite homelessness organization. Sure, we’d love you to join the HEAR US supporters, but local efforts are good, too. 

I’m about to embark on what will be a 10,000 mile marathon journey across much of the U.S. to conduct presentations, meet with potential partners, screen my new film, and speak with current and formerly homeless families and youth. I’d like to tell them that everyone possible is doing everything possible to make life better for the millions of our sisters and brothers without housing. 

I’d love to hear from you. Just click POST A COMMENT and let me know what you’ve done. It’s not bragging—it’s further inspiring a compassion epidemic! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Pope Francis, Savior for America's Homeless Families and Youth?

One, faced with insurmountable odds, can only hope for a savior. As Pope Francis packs his bags (I can't imagine he has a butler doing that task), I'm packing up my hopes in one basket for his pending U.S. trip on behalf of the 3 million or so homeless kids and their families.

Despite our ongoing best effort to get Congress to address the growing issue of homeless kids, nothing seems to work. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education released the latest number of school kids identified as homeless, 1,360,747. This number represents DOUBLE the amount of students since before the recession.

As the kind folks at the National Alliance to End Homelessness were good enough to point out, most of these students are doubled up, staying with friends, relatives, or acquaintances because they have nowhere to go. (If you want to hear from the families and youth as to what it's like being doubled up, here's my latest HEAR US documentary, Worn Out Welcome Mat - KS.)

Pope Francis will visit NYC where record number of homeless families and youth are overwhelming the underwhelming system.

He will travel to Philadelphia where families living in tents have befuddled authorities in their feeble attempts to make sure no one, especially babies and toddlers, are sleeping on the streets.

He will stop in DC to afflict the comfortable members of Congress as he addresses a joint session. (Oh, to be a fly on the wall watching the squirming...).

So, the "eggs (hopes)" in my basket are:
  • Get Congress to issue a joint apology to the millions of homeless families and youth, coupled by their commitment to revamp our nation's paltry approach to this population, and the serious funding necessary. Oh yeah, pass (fully funded) the Homeless Children and Youth Act for a show of good faith.
  • Get Congress to agree that poverty in America is immoral and that they will immediately and wholeheartedly take drastic steps to restore a decent quality of life to the disenfranchised.
  • Get Congress to institute a moratorium on any cruel initiatives to punish those at the bottom of the economic ladder--in areas not limited to health care, criminal justice, welfare, childcare, education and nutrition. 
  • Hear the confession of the NAEH folks who up till now denied the plight of families and youth who lost housing and doubled up with others.
I'm sure these things will happen. Wanna know why? The Nuns On The Bus will be in DC to make sure things go well. Amen!