Homeless Children

Posted: February 27, 2008 in Children, Compassion, Family, Government, Homelessness, Morality

Because of the illness I went through late last month, and because I’m technically still "recovering" from it, I’ve been diligent about trying to make sure that I eat healthy. I haven’t always succeeded.

Today, for example, I stopped in a McDonald’s and bought myself one of their ice creams sundaes (hot caramel). I’m sure that it wasn’t exactly a healthy choice, but it sure made my tummy feel good. When my tummy feels good, I feel good. So with all this feeling good, when I stepped out of the door I was humming to myself with contentment.  

Across the street I spotted something that made me stop humming: a family. Not just a family however. This family was a homeless family. It consisted of a young mother and her children, half carrying and half lugging their belongings with them. It made my heart sink.

Because I’ve personally experienced homelessness and have been exposed to homeless families, you would think that the sight of a homeless family would be "old hand" for me. But it’s not. The sight of a child who is homeless still makes my stomach pitch; it still causes me to wince. And it still grates loudly against my sense of right and wrong.

In my minds’ eye, I can still see the faces of the homeless children I’ve met and known. I remember how they seemed to lack the exuberance of other children; how they seemed to be carrying a great weight on their shoulders.

It’s easy for us to say that as children they have a natural resilience so they’ll be able to "outgrow" the scars of their present situation. But, I’m not so sure that’s true. Having to face homelessness in their formative years must surely traumatize them in ways that we cannot even begin to understand. The experience of homelessness is something that they will have to contend with for the rest of their lives.

One of the current politicians vying for the office of President is known for having said that it takes the village to raise the child. But how can the village raise the child if we keep the child on the outer perimeter of the village?

I’m not sure how, as a society, we’ve managed to become numb to such a hideous reality.

I don’t know if it’s because we don’t believe we can do anything to make a difference. I don’t know if it’s because we think that it’s someone else’s responsibility to do something. I don’t know if it’s because we’re just too indifferent to the sufferings of others. Or, if we just don’t really care. It could be a combination of all of those things.

I can understand how we might be able to turn a deaf ear to an adult who is homeless. After all, since they are an adult they should be responsible enough to make something of themselves and do something with their lives, right?

But a child who is homeless; how can we not be provoked to action? How can we be so self-involved that we’re able to justify making excuses for not doing something? How can we not be outraged that our elected leaders aren’t burning the candle at both ends to find genuine and effective solutions to remedy this need?

We seem all too content to make cosmetic changes to our communities. But when it comes to making a difference where it counts, we say that we can’t afford it; we just don’t have the budget for it. We’ll spend money to make sure that every flower is in place. We’ll spend taxpayer dollars on banners and festivals. We’ll spend our money on election campaign contributions. But we won’t make a gift of $5 or $10 to the local homeless support service agencies. We’ll allow ourselves to be taxed so that our elected leaders have fancy padded chairs to sit in, but we won’t spend the money to make sure that a homeless child has a bed to sleep in.

Every time I see a homeless child the same thought comes to mind: our elected leaders have failed the community they are sworn to serve. But, it goes deeper than that. We are the ones who have failed by not holding those leaders to account for what they are not doing to alleviate the suffering of our nation’s homeless children.

  1. A Grandmother says:

    Many people are desensitized, and there probably is a host of reasons why we can and do avoid helping. Others are very sensitive and do what they can. There are a lot of kind and caring people here in SLO, and while you’re correct in questioning, remember to encourage and thank.

    I’d like to borrow a thought from a wonderful photographer, whose work I view on Flickr. He goes by the name Stoneth, and he recently posted a portrait of a woman named Patricia. He tells a story about her in the caption, and states that it’s “hard to bear”.

    It is hard for us to bear the faces and the stories, but much harder for those who carry a great weight on their shoulders, as you say.

    Sensitive attention to these stressed people may, in some small way, lessen their burden. I’d like to think so anyway. Thanks for shining your light and reminding us they need help.

    A Grandmother,

    I agree with you that there are indeed many wonderful caring people in our community.

    I’ve been blessed to have met many of them. It is their compassion, kindness and willingness to reach out to those in need that has often times kept me going when I’ve neared despair and seemed to lack the strength to continue.

    Thank your for the reminder.

    – m –

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