According to figures given by the National Coalition for the Homeless web site, approximately 3.5 million people will experience homelessness this year. 1.5 million of them will be dependant children.
According to the figures in the Homeless Services Coordinating Council report of Spring 2006, on October 26, 2005, during a collaborative effort to ascertain the number of homeless people living in San Luis Obispo County, 2408 people were identified as being homeless, with 817 of them being children under the age of 21.
Since there are only about 180 shelter beds available county wide it would be safe to say that on October 26, 2005 there were some 2228 homeless individuals without shelter who were forced to sleep either in their vehicles or out of doors.
That on that date 817 of the 2408 persons counted were children – approximately 34% of the total count – is in the words of the report "staggering."
Considering that the number of homeless children in the country out numbers the available shelter beds by a ratio of about 7 to 1, staggering is not a word I would have used. Perhaps sickening – or morally reprehensible – would have been more descriptive.
It is one thing to ignore the numbers of adult homeless and to say that their homelessness is their own fault, but to ignore the numbers of homeless children in our own country borders on cruel and indecent, regardless of the reason for their homelessness.
While it is easy to assign blame to the parents for the homelessness of their children but doing so doesn’t solve the problem – nor does it begin to seek a viable solution to ending the suffering that these children must endure daily.
On December 16, 1993, journalist Anna Quindlen wrote in The New York Times:
"More than a decade after our fellow citizens began bedding down on the sidewalks, their problems continue to seem so intractable that we have begun to do psychologically what government has been incapable of doing programmatically. We bring the numbers down- not by solving the problem, but by deciding it’s their own damn fault."
If we, as a society are going to overcome the issue of homelessness within even just our own community, we must band together to find real solutions. We must stop fooling ourselves into believing that the adoption of new laws and ordinances that penalize the homeless for performing life sustaining activities in public are in the least bit effective. Nor will having good intentions get the job done.
We must face the fact that the only true solution to reducing the numbers of homeless in our community is to find a way to reintroduce them back into the community as productive member of society.
Until we do, the numbers of homeless will continue to rise despite our all our efforts.