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The Clock is Ticking: Homeless Kids, Adults Tossed to the Curb

“School’s out!” The joyous cry echoing across playgrounds fails to excite the millions of homeless and income-challenged kids (and their parents) who will lose their one place of stability and source of regular meals for summer months.

Double whammy for some: the few emergency family shelters that exist shut down for the warmer weather, often a tough decision based on lack of resources, leaving families on the streets.

For students whose families lack homes, summer causes survival to become more grueling. Access to food becomes a challenge that would confound the average adult. Add childcare challenges for working parents, and a huge boredom for playground, techno and camp-deprived kids; the equation is daunting.

But it’s not just elementary and high school students who face logistical nightmares about where to stay, how to find food, and more. College students who experience homelessness (yes, tens of thousands) lose their lodging and meals, pushing them to a couch-by-couch existence, if they’re lucky. An admirable trio of enlightened college students is pushing phlegmatic Congress to cut loose funds to streamline and improve services for homeless youth. Give them a hand-up and sign/share their petition.

Homelessness and poverty cause adults and kids enormous difficulties, as New York Times columnist Charles Blow points out: “Poverty is a demanding, stressful, depressive and often violent state. No one seeks it; they are born or thrust into it. In poverty, the whole of your life becomes an exercise in coping and correcting, searching for a way up and out, while focusing today on filling the pots and the plates, maintaining a roof and some warmth, and dreading the new challenge tomorrow may bring.”

Meanwhile, elected officials with homes, power and lots of money, tend to be a little less than passionate about prioritizing solutions to family homelessness, even when it’s in everyone’s best interest, as pointed out recently to the DC City Council:

“When families cannot even access shelter … let alone housing, it becomes a Herculean feat for parents to ensure that their children get to school each day, that they get enough sleep, and that they have adequate food and nutrition to be able to concentrate on their studies.” (DC Legal Clinic staff attorney Nassim Moshiree) Those challenges multiply when kids are out of school.

In a thoughtful analysis of school performance data in Maine, Ben Sprague pointed out, “We would all like to think that a child’s socioeconomic status does not impact that person’s likelihood of success, but study after study shows that educational and vocational outcomes are highly correlated to economic and family circumstances.” School achievement scores will not improve until our nation alleviates homelessness and poverty.

The way politicians view and handle (or not) these issues is a useful measure for how worthy they are to serve as elected officials.  The astute Pat LaMarche connects the ballot box and poverty in her latest post. She relates a talk by Ohio state senator Nina Turner, who condemned “selfish people elected to office who refuse to use their power to make public policy to lift people,’’ with Pat adding that they “can't stay elected for long if the people have unfettered access to the ballot box. That's why the officials who turn their backs on their constituents are also trying to limit voter turnout among the poor and disadvantaged.”

We’ve got some serious homework. Too many voters are clueless about homelessness/poverty. If you are still with me this far, you’re probably among the enlightened minority. These plights are a hair’s breath away from millions, and we’ll be much smarter if we attack causes as well as symptoms. My organization, HEAR US Inc., can do the heavy lifting for you. Watch, then share, this 4-min. video, My Own Four Walls. Listening to these kids will enlighten/inspire anyone.

  • ASSIGNMENT: Get rid of elected officials who exhibit indifference (or worse) to millions of our sisters and brothers. Extra credit for those who do something to ease summertime struggles (sign that petition!) for big and little students. Don’t wait till the last minute. Failing is not an option.