Back To School

Posted: September 27, 2007 in Children, Family, Homelessness

September is almost over. Autumn has officially started. The days are getting shorter. The nights are getting longer. The weather is… well it is what it is. The majority of the tourists have gone back to their respective homes. And, the school year is back in session.

Cal Poly University students are busy with the hustle and bustle of life on campus. Each morning they crowd the buses on their way to the university. High school and elementary school students are doing the same. Students are reacquainting themselves with friends from last year. Those who are starting this year at a new school are making new friends.  

There is one homeless woman I know who has two children – a daughter who is high school aged, and a son who is still in elementary school.

This small family has been homeless now for about two years. They don’t really stay at the shelter. They seldom, if ever, use the services of the day center. The mother works part time since that’s all she can find. She makes too much to qualify for any type of assistance, but not enough to be able to afford housing for herself and her two children. Most of their worldly possessions are in a small storage unit and in her auto.

I don’t know where they stay or sleep. I know that from time to time they’ve been able to "sleep" in the residences of some friends. However, because this mother doesn’t want to inconvenience her friends more than necessary, this overnight visits are seldom.

What little money this mother does earn goes toward making certain that her children are properly clothed and fed. Then of course, there are the expenses that are a part of owning a vehicle.

Each morning, she finds a heads to one of this towns many convenience stores that have a bathroom so that her children can wash up and get ready for school. After that’s done, she drops her daughter off at the transit center downtown so that she can catch a bus to school, then takes her son to his school, after which she herself heads off to work.

In the time I’ve known them, the children have always been well mannered. There are times when they have become boisterous, but that is to be expected; they are still children after all and like all children still have a need to be playful. That’s simply a part of the growing process.

But I wonder what the experience of homeless is going to be on these children. There will certainly be emotional and psychological scars. Perhaps these wounds are completely evident now, but one day they will have an impact on their adult lives.

It is hard for an adult to be homeless, and although children have a natural resilience, for a child or a young teen to face homelessness it must be doubly hard.

It must be difficult for these two children. They don’t have the same opportunities that children who aren’t homeless have. These two children cannot invite friends home after school. They cannot plan birthday parties, or holiday barbeques. They don’t have a regular place where they can do their school work. They cannot go "home" after school and grab a snack out of the refrigerator, or sit and watch television.

All of the things that most children – and adults – take for granted are denied these two children. And all because they are homeless in a community that seemingly doesn’t care about it’s homeless; a community that prefers that their homeless stay deep in the shadows where they cannot be seen; a community that would rather that the homeless went elsewhere.

A couple of days ago, I published a post called "Do The Math." In it I quoted an employee of the San Luis Obispo Economic Opportunity Commission who said SLO was a great place to be homeless because this area has a lot resources.

If that’s true then why is this family still homeless?

And as side note: I mentioned that the showers in the men’s bathroom at the Prado Day Center were scheduled to be opened at 1:00 PM that day. As of this morning, they’re still out of commission.

Go figure.

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