December 2014. This is the time of year when newspapers and television programs pay attention to homelessness again. Unfortunately, homelessness doesn’t begin at Thanksgiving and end at New Years. For all too many men, women, children, and youth, homelessness is a painful, traumatic daily reality. America’s Youngest Outcasts, a state report card on child homelessness from the National Center on Family Homelessness, recently reported that 2.5 million children in America experienced homelessness over the past year. That shocking number, 2.5 million, means that 1 out of every 30 American children have been homeless in the last year. 2.5 million is roughly the size of the greater Kansas City metro area, or the population of Birmingham, Cleveland, Portland, and Albuquerque…combined. Imagine that: a city of 2.5 million people filled with children experiencing homelessness. It is hard to comprehend.
And yet we allow child homelessness to exist in this country on a scale we have not witnessed since the Great Depression. We debate methodologies for counting and estimating numbers of homeless individuals and families. We quibble over where to allocate meager resources. We attempt to size the problem to fit available funding so that we can demonstrate impact.
The question we should be asking is how dare we. How dare we as a nation of outrageously wealthy entertainers, athletes, hedge fund managers, and politicians allow any child to become homeless? How dare we give massive publicly funded subsidies to corporations while cutting housing subsidies and vilifying poor people? How dare we assume that if homeless families just worked harder, they would be able to raise themselves magically into the disintegrating middle class?
It is never acceptable for any child to be homeless. Not one child. Not one night. If you haven’t read America’s Youngest Outcasts, click on it here and read it. Then go do something about it. Add your voice to the fight against the tragedy, the scandal, of child homelessness.
Image by Jeff Olivet