Tuesday, November 12, 2013

No Room At The Inn

When speaking out about needs I witness while doing community outreach with homeless youth, I am commonly asked "aren't there shelters for them to stay in?  Surely agencies can put homeless children in foster care or in residential facilities."  While this utopian thought might seem logical given the vast wealth in the United States, it's not at all indicative of the reality for scores of children.

1,168,354 homeless children were enrolled in U.S. schools in 2011-2012.  That is a 72% increase in less than a decade. 

In the last five years, the number of homeless children increased by 42% in Michigan, by 53% in North Carolina, by 58% in Maine and by an alarming 212% in North Dakota. 

While so many claim this nation is plagued by "freeloaders who bilk a system when they aren't in need," we continue to fail to look after the most vulnerable of American citizens. 

We cut food stamp allotments, cut federal funding to shelters housing domestic violence victims and cut programs to house, feed and counsel children in the most horrible of circumstances. 

More than one in five children is at risk of hunger in America. Those numbers jump to one in three children among African-American and Latino children.

I saw a poster a few months back that a protester in front of Planned Parenthood was holding that said "Give Babies A Fighting Chance."  But don't young children deserve a chance as well?  Does compassion stop post-birth? 

During the holiday season, hearts are warmed by thoughts of giving gifts to children who won't have a Christmas otherwise.  But for the highest number of homeless children on record ever in the U.S., unwrapping a toy will do far more for the giver than the recipient.  Lugging toys from one shelter filled to capacity after another will serve only as a reminder to a homeless child that stability isn't a gift afforded to all. There is indeed "no room at the inn."

Want to do something this season to help a child in need?  Donate warm clothing and food to a shelter, write those in political office and express to them how it is reprehensible that shelters are full with no immediate openings expected, programs are being cut and children have nowhere to go. 

For far too many of our children, Christmas is just another day to risk freezing conditions while ignoring the rumbles of a hungry tummy.  It is time we start finding solutions, putting in work in our own communities and stop glossing over the most quickly escalating tragedy of our generation.

Toys are great. A safe place to sleep and a warm meal are far better.



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