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....

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How To Help Homeless Families and Youth?

I’ve looked into the eyes of too many homeless children. That partially explains my task-master teacher-like attitude for following up on “assignments” I’ve given, like the edict I issued at the end of January at the CARES Community Discussion about homelessness held at Dickinson College.

The assignment was simple, requiring less than 30 seconds on under “Take Action.” I urged the audience—CARES volunteers and guests, Dickinson students and professors, and the public to send Congressman Barlettta a message requesting that he co-sponsor the Homeless Children and Youth Act (HR 576).

This bipartisan legislation will expand the narrow definition of “homelessness” used by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reflect the more realistic definition used by the U.S. Department of Education and other federal agencies. It sounds benign. It’s far from that. It’s a matter of life and death.

HUD’s definition excludes literally millions of children, parents, youth on their own, and adults from services, including emergency shelter, and from being counted in HUD’s annual Point-In-Time census which recently happened in Cumberland County.

This exclusion means that HUD reported to Congress that about 500,000 people were counted as homeless, including 128,000 children/youth, while the Education census identified over 1.3 million students as homeless, not including younger/older siblings or parents, a number that has appallingly doubled in the 10 years I’ve been on the road chronicling the plight and promise of homeless families and youth.

What this issue boils down to is dreadfully underfunded shelters and services for those who need it most—babies, toddlers, younger and older kids and parents. If you want a face on this issue, watch this 4-minute video of kids talking about homelessness. 

If you want more, go to (my organization, HEAR US Inc.’s website) and scroll down a bit to watch Worn Out Welcome Mat - Kansas

In short, the bill would help vulnerable families and youth by changing HUD’s policy which “excludes children and youth who face real harm, including negative emotional, educational, and health outcomes; it also increases their risk of physical and sexual abuse and trafficking.” And much more. 

I stopped in Congressman Barletta’s Carlisle office and spoke with Leah, his field representative. She was quite understanding and willing to help Pat LaMarche and me set up an appointment to ask the Congressman to cosponsor this bill. Since she was so nice, I asked if she could look up how many emails were generated after my plea last Tuesday night. She did.

I wish I could say it was a lot. I can’t.

Sadly, people are busy. Survival is hard, even for those with homes. And we'd like to think we made it easy, but maybe it's not.
If you want to weigh in, simply go to and click on TAKE ACTION. 
The bottom line is, without community support (i.e. emails or calls) to get laws like this passed, we will continue to have skyrocketing numbers of homeless families and youth. People of Cumberland County (and beyond) will have to increase even beyond your impressive efforts to provide emergency services to families and youth who will have little hope to escape the ravages of homelessness. And I will continue to have to look in their eyes, knowing much more needs to be done, wondering what it will take to get people to care.