"Ground Breaking" Events

Posted: April 26, 2008 in Bureauacracy, Children, Government, Homelessness, Politics

I’m a news junkie.

Each time I connect to the Internet, I scan the headlines. Eight times out of ten, when I have the television on, it’s tuned to one the news channels. I just like knowing what it going on in the world.

Lately, I’ve been keeping a close watch on what is happening in political news. Some folks might find that boring – or even maddening – but I don’t. I’m interested in knowing what the all of the Presidential hopefuls are up to. What makes this Presidential election a bit more interesting to me than previous elections is that each of the three forerunners are all currently "sitting" Senators.  

According to the U.S. Senate’s web site, the last time a sitting Senator was elected President, was John F. Kennedy in 1960. The only other instance of a sitting Senator being elected President was Warren G. Harding in 1920.

Moreover, this election has some other interesting aspects.

This is the first time a former U.S. First Lady is running for President. It is the first time there is an African-American running for President. And, should Senator John McCain be elected, at 70 years old, he will be the oldest person to ever be elected to the Office (a record currently held by President Ronald Reagan who was 69 when he was elected).

Yes, this is certainly a "ground breaking" era in our nation’s history.

There are other "ground breaking" events happening as well.

For example, this is the first time in history (at least as far as I know) that there is actually a Federal mandate with regards to ending chronic homelessness throughout the nation. Local governments who do not adopt and enact a 10 year plan to end chronic homelessness in their community stand to lost federal funding at certain levels.

While I think it’s wonderful that ending homelessness has become a type of quasi-goal at the federal level, I’m concerned with the idea that only one segment of the American homeless population is being targeted as the prime recipients for aid: the chronic homeless.

The Federal definition of who is chronically homeless is,

"an unaccompanied homeless individual with a disabling condition who has either been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years."

The operative word there is "individual."

As a result, there are a lot of people who will be excluded from receiving aid under any 10 year plans, in particular children.

The National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Homeless Families with Children states,

"One of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population is families with children."

It goes on to state that families with children represent 33 percent of America’s homeless population.

The theoretic goal behind the chronic homeless initiative is to help those homeless who have "a disabling condition" and are therefore seen as the "most vulnerable." The truth is that anyone who is homeless has a disabling condition: homelessness itself. Yet, who is more vulnerable than a homeless child?

The many obstacles and barriers that the homeless face daily at receiving aid, is a handicap. Government agencies, through bureaucratic red tape, dole out aid to the homeless with the proverbial eye dropper. Private homeless support services organizations, due to lack of funding, are unable to provide the types of services and programs that could potentially help the homeless transition back into the community.

This is further exacerbated by the stereotypes that the homeless are saddled with. These stereotypes create chasms between themselves and other members of the community.

The net result is that hundreds of thousands of children are forced to live their lives in shelters; in their parents’ vehicles; or even just out in the open on the streets of this nation’s cities.

These children, through no fault of their own, are being emotionally and psychologically scarred by the experience of homelessness. Despite the natural resilience of a child, who knows how their present situation will affect their futures. How many of them will be unable to cope with society as adults? How many of them will find themselves with permanent emotional and/or psychological disabilities? How many of them will become chronically homeless themselves?

It’s difficult enough to face homelessness as an adult. But to have to face it as a child?

All of these 10 year plans to end chronic homelessness are fine. But, they’re only a first step – and a shaky step at that.

I have no problem with providing help those who are chronically homeless. We should be doing that. We should have been doing that a long time ago. But, more importantly – at least in my mind – we should be seeking ways of completely eliminating homelessness among children. That should be the number one priority.

It would certainly be a "ground breaking" event.

Our nation’s homeless children deserve better than what they are currently getting from us "grown ups."

  1. mary says:

    Whenever the local paper has something about the homeless, there will be someone that says “lock them up” (meaning the mentally challenged – via a letter to the editor). Perhaps SLO does not have as many homeless with as severe mental illnesses as here in Long Beach.

    A lot of the funds allotted for homeless services pays the wages for those that administer the funds and various programs. Rents for homeless service buildings and all other associated costs.

    If they gave that 1/2 that amount directly to homeless individuals they could be off the streets not only at night but in day time too. Of course they could not do so, because of the numbers of alcoholics and drug users among the population!

    I heard Senator Edwards speak about the homeless population. It is believed that 1/3 of our nation’s homeless are veterans. I often think that Long Beach being a Navy town accounts for the homeless vets; but I also met new to LB homeless vets who said the VA hospital provided services not available in their states.

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