Our American Society’s Shameless Crime

Today it was disclosed 1 in 50 children, in America, live in a homeless family!

There’s “No” easy solution to this problem; children cannot be taken away from there parents and we as fellow citizens cannot easily provide homes for these families.  So what’s the solution?

As I see there is no short term fix; homelessness as a whole as been avoided for almost the past thirty years by us, the American people, and at all levels of government providing only token service at best to take care (soup kitchens, old clothing and limited, space available shelter) of the homeless, but “not” to solve the problem(s) of what creates homelessness.

However, as I do see it, there is a long term solution, which complements, but extends our recently passed Stimulus Package in congress last month.  After World War II our federal government provided funding for a number of nation wide housing projects to accommodate lower income family’s homes to temporally live in; until America’s economy recovered from the war effort and industry could re-gear to produce consumer related goods.  A side benefit of this aforementioned program was creating jobs for returning veterans from the European and Pacific theaters of action, which it successfully accomplished.

Today, the housing industry is suffering, thus the lack of “new housing starts”, placing many of our skilled tradesmen out of work (perhaps even homeless); so the question begs to be asked “why couldn’t an extension sum of money be included in the existing Stimulus Package for Federally Funded Housing?”

By now it should be intuitively obvious I’m more or less a Democratic, “left leaning” liberal, which to some means I believe in and support unlimited “welfare assistance”, which is not the case at all.  This “government housing”, I’m suggesting, must have enforceable, stick limitations for the tenants caring to reside in these proposed dwellings, suggested are a few:

  • Employable skills of the bread earners in the family
  • Employable skills available within the community
  • Available and meaningful vocational training within the community
  • Age of children within the family
  • Length of necessary stay by a family
  • Incentives for tenants to relocate to permanent, affordable housing

I’m sure there are additional limitations and conditions to consider, before commencing on such an extreme and expensive program, both these are what comes to mind, which are important to me.  In other words, stated simply, this is not another endless free ride for those who are content to exist on welfare or produce offspring to gain free to low cost housing for life.

I’m not going to invoke a session of preaching within this posting, but experience should have taught us that these homeless kids, growing up on our city streets have one alternative to turn to, which is “gangs, hence crime”; causing an ever worsening condition for our society.  With 1 out of 100 Americans serving prison time, I certainly don’t feel my tax payer dollars should be spent on additional confinement facilities or the expansion of existing prisons.

Below is the article which promoted this posting appearing in TIME and entitled: “Report Says 1 in 50 U.S. Kids Are Homeless”, authored by Steven Gray.

Report Says 1 in 50 U.S. Kids Are Homeless
By Steven Gray / Chicago Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009

Even before the financial and home foreclosure crisis hit full stride, the number of homeless children in America had reached an alarming level. The National Center on Family Homelessness released a report today that estimates that one in every 50 American children was homeless between 2005 and 2006. That totals roughly 1.5 million kids. While the center provided no previous statistic to compare against that figure, a study conducted with different measures published in 2000 put the total at 1.35 million children living in homelessness each year. The numbers are likely to get worse as the economy continues to decline. “We know the numbers are going to skyrocket,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the Newton, Mass.-based Center and an associate professor of psychiatry at the Harvard Medical School.

Indeed, a quick survey of the country provides lots of evidence to support those fears. Chicago public school officials report the number of its 405,000 students deemed homeless soared to 11,143 last month from 9,182 in February 2006. School officials in Hillsborough County, Fla., which includes Tampa, have so far counted some 1,700 homeless students — and expect the figure to eclipse last year’s 2,020. Meanwhile, the surge in homeless families has overwhelmed Massachusetts’ shelters, forcing state officials to book motel rooms for the displaced. In January, some 4,600 homeless children were reported in the state’s shelters and motels, up from 3,411 from roughly one year earlier. (See one family’s struggle against homelessness.)

According to the new report, the states with the highest number of homeless children in the period studied were Texas (337,105), California (292,624), Louisiana (204,053), Georgia (58,397) and Florida (49,886). The states reporting the smallest populations of homeless children: Wyoming (169), Rhode Island (797), Vermont (1,174), North Dakota (1,181), and South Dakota (1,545). However, the report also ranks the states according to parameters that go beyond their share of homeless children, factoring in, among other things, incidence of such health conditions as asthma and tooth decay. With that framework, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Rhode Island and North Dakota were rated among states that dealt best with the problem overall. At the bottom of the list: Texas, Georgia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana.

Families with children comprise roughly one-third of the nation’s homeless population. Poverty continues to be a core reason for the crisis, though the aftermath of Hurrican Katrina combined to swell the numbers in Louisiana, Texas and Georgia. Since the 1980s, single mothers have accounted for an increasing share of the homeless population, partly because of increased divorced rates, gender and wage disparities, and the shrinking supply of affordable housing. Officials believe that the current home foreclosure crisis will be adding a new demographic to these statistics: middle-class blacks and Latinos. “It’s families that were living pretty independently, doing pretty well. And, through just one event, it was, like, a domino effect — if one part of the puzzle breaks off, then everything breaks off,” says Michael Levine, who coordinates social work programs for Hillsborough, Fla.’s 206,000-student school system. (See Cleveland’s woes amid the current foreclosure crisis.)

The nation’s states and cities are awaiting an infusion of $1.5 billion from President Obama’s stimulus package devoted to homelessness prevention programs. Those programs will provide short-term rental and mortgage assistance, as well as security deposits and utility bills. A decade ago, the Department of Housing and Urban Development spent barely $1 billion on all of its homeless programs each year.

Still, measuring homelessness is tricky, partly because of varying definitions of what constitutes homelessness. It is especially difficult to gauge homelessness among children, since many teenagers are reluctant to identify themselves as such, and evade formal counts by living independently on the streets or in vacant apartments with friends. This is compounded by the scarcity of housing options for children over age 12, particularly boys, who are typically barred from entering shelters with their mothers. So any gauge merely offers a glimpse at the problem’s severity. The report’s researchers based their analysis on a broad definition of homelessness that included, for instance, children living in shelters, on the streets, or with other relatives, a practice known as “doubling up.” The findings are no less startling: Roughly three-quarters of homeless children are of elementary school age, and 42% are below age six.

The consequences of homelessness are profound. Homeless children are twice as likely as other children to be “retained,” or held back, one academic year, or to be suspended or, ultimately, to drop out of school altogether. School districts across the country report a growing share of students who are “highly mobile” — who move multiple times within a school year. With each move, experts say, such students are at risk of falling some six months behind, or more, in their studies. Roughly one-quarter of homeless children have witnessed violence. It isn’t surprising, then, that nearly half of such children suffer from anxiety and depression.

It’s the narrative that Trisha Parker, 19, is hoping to avoid for her infant son. Parker can’t live with her mother, who receives federal housing assistance, and neither can she live with her grandmother in the Chicago suburbs much longer. Parker says she completed training to be a medical technician, but couldn’t find work in the field. She was recently hired as a security guard, earning $11 an hour. But that’s hardly enough to afford even a $600 a month studio apartment. Larger units are beyond her reach. “They want the first and last month’s security deposit” which is, she figures, about $2,000, maybe $2,500. “It really is a lot.”

Complementing this story is a YouTube video regarding a program in Massachusetts, Horizons for Homeless Children, which is a good example of what can be done for the less fortunate children in today’s America.

Horizons for Homeless Children Programs

This is a 3.5 minute piece that features Massachusetts-based Horizons for Homeless Children and the programs/services it offers to homeless children and families. For more information, visit http://www.horizonsforhomelesschildren.org.

Special thanks to all involved in the production of this video, including Redtree Productions, Jay Williams, Richard Klug, Soundtrack Boston, Alex Lasarenko at Tonal Sound and Mary Richardson. Thanks also to all of the children, families, volunteers and HHC staff who helped share the story.

Newswire Updates:

The New Face Of Homelessness
from CBSNews.com | by Kelly Cobiella

When Michael Rotundo finishes school every day, he comes home to a double bed at the Budget Inn – no yard, no neighborhood kids,

“I don’t have a lot of thinking room,” Michael said. “I can’t think straight with math, reading.”

“You’re having a tough time in school?” asked CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella.

“Yes,” Michael said. “I almost failed.”

Michael is 12, but talks, acts and worries like an adult.

“We can’t get a home because we don’t have a lot of money left over to rent a house or buy a house,” Michael said. “It’s just so hard for me and my family to live here.”

Michael, his mom and dad have been living in this motel room for 11 months, ever since his dad lost his job. His parents are working again, and they make too much money to qualify for food stamps or Medicaid and live week to week. Sometimes day to day. Mom Julie can see her son changing.

“He worries,” Julie Rotundo said. “He’s afraid to ask me for things. He’s afraid to tell me that there’s a school event that we’re going to miss. And I don’t know what to do. I’m sorry. It’s tough. Just imagine.”

Across the country about one in 50 school kids is living just like Michael in hotels or shelters, or with friends and relatives. And their numbers are growing fast.

Although it’s difficult to get exact figures, nationwide schools reported an 18 percent jump in homeless kids in the 2007-2008 school year. School districts in California and Florida report an even bigger increase this year.

Many kids lost more than just their homes.

“I have like no clothes anymore because I lost them all,” said Breanna Martin, a 13-year-old. “So basically I wear whatever I can find. I’m wearing right now my grandpa’s shirt and my grandma’s pants. It’s really hard not having anything of your own and wearing someone else’s.”

Safe Families For Children In Need
from CBSNews.com

More than one out of three parents told CBS News that the recession had affected their children’s lives in some way. For some children, the impact goes far deeper, and may be to them what the Great Depression was to an earlier generation.

Update 09 May 09:

NYC Charging Rent At Homeless Shelters
from The Huffington Post News Editors

Even the homeless can’t escape the high price of a night in New York City.  City officials this month began charging rent to some families staying in homeless shelters.  The policy applies only to shelter residents who have income from jobs.  They could be expected to pay up to half their earnings.  Some shelter residents say the new rule will ruin their chances of saving enough money to get an apartment.  One single mother living in a Manhattan shelter tells The New York Times she got a letter saying she had to give up $336 of the $800 she makes each month as a cashier.  The city says it is only charging people who can afford to pay.  About 2,000 families are expected to be covered by the new rule.

Update 07 May 09:

3.5M Kids Under 5 In U.S. Face Hunger Risk
from CBSNews.com

An estimated 3.5 million children under the age of 5 are at risk of hunger in the United States, according to a look at government numbers by an anti-hunger group.

Update 13 Mar 09:

A Tent City Near You? Tell Us About It
Arthur Delaney
Huffington Post

There are reports of tent cities popping up across the country as unemployment rises in a worsening economy. The biggest and highest-profile shantytown is in Sacramento, where hundreds of newly-homeless tent residents are cooking soup in old coffee cans.

We want to know where else this is happening.

HuffPost readers: Is there a tent city near you? Have you noticed a newly-formed community of people living together in improvised housing in a public space? Email us! Send any information you’ve got (or pictures) to submissions+homeless@huffingtonpost.com.

Sacramento’s KCRA reported this week that city officials plan to shut the tent city down:

Sacramento’s ‘Tent City’ To Be Closed

Campers in a large tent city at the north end of downtown Sacramento will be told to leave the property with their belongings within a few weeks, assistant city manager Cassandra Jennings said Wednesday.

Schwarzenegger Promises To Help Tent City
from CBSNews.com

California will help Sacramento officials relocate about 150 people from a homeless encampment that put the city in the international spotlight, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Wednesday.

5 Responses to “Our American Society’s Shameless Crime”

  1. March 10, 2009 at 10:54 PM

    Tom – You commented (thank you) on my piece criticizing the earmarks and government waste in general (http://captjustice.wordpress.com/2009/03/10/the-disgrace-of-earmarks-continues/).

    I would argue more that the entire federal budget needs to be prioritized — not RE-prioritized, just prioritized. It’s my feeling that there is not true focus and priority given to critical needs. I cannot imagine anyone who would fail to agree that 1 in 50 kids being homeless is a travesty.

    The earmarks and other waste in federal government sucks away money that could, in some manner, address those needs of children.

  2. 3 bydesign001
    March 11, 2009 at 12:49 AM

    Very good article Tom. You wrote: “After World War II our federal government provided funding for a number of nation wide housing projects to accommodate lower income family’s homes to temporally live in.”

    Many of those housing projects are still standing today. However, the problem was that the majority of those who moved into these “projects” never left. My aunt was one of the few who upon getting back up on her feet moved out. Many of those families have raised their children and their children who have since moved, but the parents are still there. I will go as far to say that the children went on to get apartments in these “projects” themselves. While the apartments in the projects were intended to be temporary, someone apparently dropped the ball or just got comfortable.

    I remember in the 60’s hearing adults that moved in these projects announce proudly “that they were never moving out.” They meant it because they never did.

    NYC began a program about 10 years ago in which these long-term tenants were forced to take smaller apartments or face eviction. Apparently that failed, because you do not hear about it anymore. One of the reasons NYC dropped the ball on downsizing and evictions is because for decades they had already stopped maintaining the projects which already had many housing violations.

    You also wrote: “Today, the housing industry is suffering, thus the lack of “new housing starts”, placing many of our skilled tradesmen out of work (perhaps even homeless); so the question begs to be asked “why couldn’t an extension sum of money be included in the existing Stimulus Package for Federally Funded Housing?”

    Again, if government had maintained these projects they would have somewhere to put many of the homeless. Then they decided to move everyone out of these projects under the premise of renovation with a clear understanding that once these buildings were renovated, they could move back in.

    Once out, Mayor Bloomberg announced that the projects would instead be renovated and transformed into coop units which means, of course, the working class. Many of the new homeless watched as their homes were torn down and 3 family homes replaced them. Even still, a decade later the remainder of these projects stand vacant which means that they have fallen into further disrepair. There are several projects areas in Brooklyn where the buildings in those areas are empty and have been empty for almost a decade. I am talking about 20,000 to 40,000 apartments AT LEAST all courtesy of the government.

    It is horrific that so many whould be homeless, especially our youth while the government passes a stimulus bill and an omnibus bill loaded with so much pork, both of which will do so little for the people.

    I do not doubt that the American Recovery Act will be the first of several, but unless our politicians stop using the crisis as an opportunity for their personal agenda (Democrats and Republicans), said bills will defeat its purpose.

  3. March 11, 2009 at 1:42 AM

    Not to at all minimize the problem, but I think it’s important to read the snippet carefully:
    “The report analyzes data from 2005-2006. It estimates that 1.5 million children experienced homelessness at least once that year, . . .” (emphasis added)

    via FOX News – foxnews.mobi.

    That is far different from 1 in 50 being homeless on an ongoing basis.

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