Who Will Champion Child Homelessness in America?
Recent reports show that children seem to be falling through the cracks of an otherwise strengthened system nationwide, becoming homeless at an alarming rate and with no immediate relief in sight.
A recent Newsweek article reported that nearly 2.5 million children experienced homelessness in the United States in 2013. This means that 1 in 30 children living in the nation has no home to go to at some point during the year.
It’s easy for us to get caught up in our daily concerns, but I find these figures jarring.
Let’s look back at what has happened in the last few years as we’ve built up the homeless services system in so many good and different ways. We have found new programming for veterans and developed housing first practices to catch the most vulnerable people on the street. Some organizations have even developed robust systems of rapid solutions like prevention, job placement and rehousing.
All these are effective approaches producing dependable results and providing resources to an increasing number of people each year based on individual needs.
However, an initial observation of the homeless services system points to the fact that it works a lot better for single adults than it does for children and families.
So, what’s going on with very poor American families?
Experts agree that they are falling further and further behind as the gap between the very wealthy and the very poor widens.
Poverty and the lack of affordable housing in a soaring real-estate market have played key roles in this statistical disaster. But, these two factors are compounded by social issues that tend to go unaddressed like racial disparities, single parenting, domestic violence and other traumatic experiences.
Perhaps more pernicious is the stealth effect of the recession which is difficult to measure, in terms of scope and impact, among households that quietly slide down and out of sight. It is almost as if you have to imagine the symptoms of the illness, children doubled-up and sleeping in cars and train stations, before you can actually figure out what it is going to take to cure it.
In other words, the trend seems too overwhelming to comprehend at first.
Some reports refer to close to 7 million people doubled up with friends and relatives throughout the U.S. When we add the thousands of families sleeping wherever they can each night, we start to see the immensity of the issue.
One thing is for sure, we need to find solutions to reverse this trend.
Many of us have come to see veteran homelessness as immoral. This holiday season, let’s all agree that child homelessness is immoral, too!
Child homelessness needs a champion in America. I know it will find one because this is the kind of country we are. When we know about an issue, we work to solve it drawing from our very deep sense of community.
In the meantime, can you pledge to end homelessness for one child in your city or town?
Look into your heart and find a homeless services organization near you. I’m sure it needs your time and your financial support this month.
By Jean-Michel Giraud
President & CEO, Friendship Place
Huffington Post Blogger