If you’re reading this then it’s fairly safe for me to assume that you have at least a handful of birthdays under your belt. I’m even willing to bet that you’ve celebrated one or two of those birthdays.
In third world countries, where the infant mortality rate is high, the first birthday is the most important birthday. It’s a milestone day with an abundance of celebration. After that, although there is some sort of recognition of the day, it doesn’t compare to the festivities of the first.
For a certain segment of this nation’s society, birthday’s are… well, just another day.
The homeless, like everyone else, have birthdays. Most of the time, however, for the homeless, birthdays come and go without notice. After all, when the streets of the community in which you live are literally your home, there’s really very little to celebrate about.
The homeless person whose birthday comes along, often times finds it overshadowed with the need to survive: the need to eat, the need to try and stay warm in winter and cool in summer, the need to find a place to sleep and, a need to either go out hunting plastic bottles and aluminum cans for recycling, or going out and panhandling just to put a few bucks in their pockets. There’s very little time for fanfare.
There is one segment of the homeless community, whose birthdays shouldn’t be forgotten, but every so often are: homeless children.
There is quite a high percentage of the nation’s homeless that is made up of families.
According to the fact sheet: "Homeless Families with Children" (which can be found on the National Coalition for the Homeless website), the U.S. Conference of Mayors, found that in 2005, "…families with children accounted for 33% of the homeless population." The fact sheet goes on to state that the survey came to the conclusion that the numbers of homeless families is on the rise.
What strikes me about these statistics are the numbers of children who will subsequently face at least one of their birthdays being homeless.
Locally, there are quite a few homeless families with children. How many of these children will have to face their birthday as a homeless person? But, more importantly is, why aren’t we as a society trying to find a way to effectively remedy homelessness?
Of the local homeless families that I’ve met here in San Luis Obispo, I’ve watched in awe as their parent(s) struggle to come up with enough money to buy a gift for their child who is having a birthday.
One homeless parent, had to go to the Goodwill Outlet Warehouse to try and find something for their child. Imagine the pain, anguish, shame and guilt it must have caused her to know that the birthday gift that she was giving her child was a used item – something that had previously belonged to someone else. But that’s all she could afford.
I’m not saying that we can cure all of the ills of the homeless. I’m not even saying that we can rescue every last one of them. There are those homeless who are beyond being helped. There are those homeless who don’t want help. But it doesn’t mean that we should not try.
I’ve always believed that children are a gift. We don’t deserve them. We aren’t owed them. They are not a possession to be taken for granted. They are a precious gift.
The greatest gift we could give in return is to work toward finding a solution that would insure that no child must face their birthday homeless.
To me, that would be a milestone worthy of notice.