Companies who have outsourced their work to other countries, the struggling U.S. economy and many other factors have created more homeless families in America than ever thought possible. During the great depression, there were 250,000 homeless children and today that number is staggering.
Like most 55-year-old Americans I grew up in a society where the homeless person was easily identified. He, in most cases, was the one sleeping on the park bench, wearing filthy clothes or reeking of alcohol and begging for spare change. My parents always cautioned me to watch for those people. “Don’t give them your money ’cause they are nothing but drunks and bums”, my dad would say. Little did I know that later in my life those people would change my life forever.
There have always been homeless people in the United States and throughout the World. There are always people becoming homeless from an earthquake, flood, or some other natural disaster. It is at that point when our government like many others will pour money into these disaster-stricken areas which makes us all feel better since we did the right thing.
In the United States, however, people who may have some sort of mental illness or people with drug or alcohol addictions, and others who just won’t strive to make a better life for themselves, and of course those just down on their luck have been homeless and continue to be homeless. Unfortunately, in this country, in this day and age, all those people just mentioned who have been pigeonholed as failures since the beginning of time has even more obstacles to overcome. Now they have to share their morsels of food, their bridges and underpasses, their cold and wet cardboard boxes with the most unlikely American people to be homeless……children.
23% of all homeless people are children
Children account for more than 23% of homeless people in this country today. I’m sure you are asking yourself, how can that be? Children are in a situation they have no control over. The children didn’t find it trendy one day to ask Mom and Dad to go to sleep outside and give up all their possessions. Children are homeless due to families losing their housing from job cuts and mortgages the family can no longer afford.
We live in a country that gives billions of American dollars to countries overseas to assist them with their local economy yet there are more than 10,000 people in this country who have no place to sleep or no food to eat on a daily basis. In 2007 the homeless population in this country was 3,500,000 people which to me seems impossible to comprehend and yet now that number has more than tripled in 3 years. Does our current administration not see these people, or do they not care?
We are talking about families with children. These are your neighbors, friends, family members, we are talking about. This is no longer an issue we can just ignore and hope it goes away. I personally think this may hit closer to home than we are comfortable with. Statistics and research have proven most Americans are only one or two missed paychecks away from bankruptcy.
So what do we do now? Do we pretend children in this country are not homeless? We all see the work large agencies are doing to assist as many homeless people as they can and we think, they’ll be OK. Did you know that most homeless shelters are full every night and millions of people are turned away, including children?
Children can be taken away from the family
Did you know if you call some agencies for help and tell them your children are cold due to you not having heat, that same agency may take your children from you and place them in a better environment? At a time when all the family has left is one another would you like to have your children taken from you? Did you know that in some agencies your 11-year-old son has to be placed with the single men even if they have room for your family? Think of it, your 11-year-old son is already frightened and he is going to be away from his Mom and sisters, sleeping in a dorm room where there may be as many as 15 grown men, some of which have drug and alcohol addictions. How does that make you feel? Still, want your government to give your tax dollars away to other countries?
The next time you see a person begging for money or assistance, ask yourself are they really homeless? We all shy away from giving people money but what about offering to buy them a sandwich. What about taking a few minutes out of our busy day to ask them if they have a family, or suggest a nearby shelter. Make yourself take the time to learn where the nearby shelters are and get involved.
The face of the homeless has changed from the scruffy man sleeping on the park bench and the next time you look in a mirror the face of the homeless may be……….yours!