comments_image Comments

What's Wrong With the Homeless Children and Youth Act?

Opponents of the Homeless Children and Youth Act, inexplicably a major national “advocacy” organization, are putting plenty of effort into denying the reality of families and youth experiencing homelessness. 

Let me ask a question:

Is your way— rebuffing the existence of millions of families, youth and adults with nowhere to go—working? 

In the 30 years I’ve been involved with homelessness I’ve seen homelessness go from a trickle to a flood. My book, Crossing the Line: Taking Steps to End Homelessness (Booklocker, 2005) describes people I saw as I ran shelters. I witnessed the steady increase of families and youth in those we’ve served. And it’s only getting worse.

I’ve seen the federal government, and many states, drastically retreat from providing affordable housing and supportive services to the growing beleaguered poverty populace, the source of the burgeoning homeless families and youth population, at the same time as federal welfare policy drastically scaled back family supports. Oh yeah, then the economy tanked….

What rarely gets mentioned—the astounding number of communities that lack any shelters or services for homeless families/youth—contributes to the trauma of millions. We seem to have dismissed their plight, tossing them into a survival mode that includes sex trafficking, prostitution, child abuse, hunger, physical and mental health issues and more.

Another question:

Why, after hearing the demands from policymakers to document the scope of the existence of homeless students, when we show dramatic increases in the numbers of children and youth experiencing homelessness (knowing that parents, and younger/older siblings are not included in the school census), do you dismiss their plight?

In the years since our nation’s economic meltdown began, 2006, public schools have identified an astounding 72% increase of students experiencing homelessness. The 2012-13 school year finds the census (albeit an undercount) at a record 1.2 million, not including parents, younger/older siblings. 

We’ve been counting students’ noses for about 10 years now to document the extent of their homelessness. Now what? Do they count or not?

And another question:

Do you think Congress will just wake up one day soon and decide to provide ample resources to ease the growth of family/youth homelessness?

Seeing that the paltry funds tossed at homeless by the feds came about because of massive grassroots actions, it makes sense to me that we need to be moving toward an expansion of advocacy, not retreating into a comfortable sense of we’ve got something, let’s not rock the boat. We need a concerted advocacy effort, not complicity with the status quo.

And my final questions:

Instead of hiding behind what appears to be a fear of not having enough resources to address homelessness for the pathetically inadequate programs now trying their best to ease and end homelessness, why not take a principled stand and say we need to expand HUD’s definition of homelessness to match the reality faced by millions of children, youth, parents and single adults with nowhere to go?

How do you sleep at night knowing that so many babies, toddlers, children, youth and parents struggle to survive with nowhere to go? 

To those uncomfortable with knowing that millions have nowhere to go, I urge you to take just a few moments and send this petition to your federal legislators to urge them to cosponsor the bipartisan Homeless Children and Youth Act. 

Having been instrumental in getting the Education for Homeless Children and Youth Act passed in 2001, I can assure you that Congress, not being accustomed to hearing that homelessness is an issue that besets families/youth, might just pay attention. We’ll all sleep better when that happens.