The Spirit On The Inside

Posted: August 5, 2008 in Children, Compassion, Discrimination, Homelessness, Morality

For most persons, the word ‘homeless" conjures up images of a disheveled, broken person clutching a can of beer wrapped in a brown paper sack; or of some person standing on a corner somewhere holding a cardboard sign begging for money; or even of a "derelict" who is too lazy to work and content to "sponge" off of the rest of society.  

It is seldom that the word "homeless" brings to our minds persons who may have succumbed to circumstances that were beyond their control and subsequently have found themselves living in homeless shelters or even out on the streets. Even more seldom do we equate the word "homeless" with children. But the fact remains that there are children in our nation living in extreme poverty and 3rd world conditions.

The National Center of Family Homelessness has published a report, America’s Homeless Children, which outlines a significant number of statistics regarding homelessness among children. For example,

  • At least 1.35 million children are homeless during a year’s time.
  • Families with children are among the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.
  • Most children living with homeless parents are very young (42% are under the age of 6 years).
  • Family homelessness is increasing. Requests for emergency shelter by families have increased every year since 1985, with an average increase of 20% in 2002.
  • Homeless children get sick twice as often as other children.
  • Homeless children go hungry twice as often as other children and 25% of homeless children report eating less after becoming homeless.
  • Homeless children have many more mental health problems than other children.
  • 47% of homeless school age children have problems such as anxiety, depression, or withdrawal, compared to 18% of other children.

I have always found it hypocritical, that our nation’s celebrities will lend their names and endorsements to organizations and agencies which advocate for animals, the environment, and children who live in poverty in remote nations. Yet, our nations’ own children are being forgotten. All the while, we idolize those celebrities.

I find it contemptible that own nation’s elected leaders continually vote on a federal budget which spends taxpayer dollars for foreign aid in the amounts of billions of dollars per year, yet seemingly ignore the needs of this nation’s homeless children.

I find it unconscionable that we’ll see advertisements on television to feed the world hungry, pick up the telephone and pledge our money to those causes, yet everyday on the streets of this nation’s cities there are children who will have no roof over their heads, or a meal in the stomachs, and we don’t seem to care.

I find it disgusting that we will turn our televisions sets on to see what "mud slinging" our current Presidential candidates are throwing at one another, yet we won’t hold those same politicians into account for their position on reducing the numbers of homeless throughout our nation.

I find it unacceptable that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has changed its enumeration methods with regards to how the homeless are counted in order to deliberately skew the numbers so that we will believe that headway is being made in reducing homelessness. And we, the rest of society, are applauding their misrepresentation of the truth.

I find it morally petty that we continue to view our nation’s homeless with prejudice, disdain and contempt; that we continue to stubbornly cling to our misconceptions of the homeless; that we judge them almost solely on their outward appearance, without ever putting forth the effort to discover if what we believe is actually true.

I find it disgraceful that local municipalities "deal" with homelessness by enacting and adopting ordinances which penalize the homeless, rather than implementing comprehensive programs and policies designed to help the homeless transition back into the community; or of finding ways to increase the numbers of affordable housing units.

I find it dishonorable that allow ourselves to be so busy with the acquisition of material possessions, that we are willing to avert our eyes when we see a homeless mother and her children.

I find it sad, that there can be 1.35 million children who will experience homelessness this year, yet we seem able to go to sleep each night with a clear conscience.

Our nation’s children – homeless and non-homeless – are our future.

Isn’t in our best interest to do whatever is necessary to ensure that that future is a bright one?

A friend of mine, who worked as a Teacher’s Aide for children with special needs, wrote a post on her blog, Dear God, I Work With Children.

Toward the end of that post she wrote:

Help me to be quick to praise,
to tell them when I’m proud of them,
to be firm, but gentle, when I correct them,
and, please, don’t ever let me make them feel small.

Some children are cleaner than others,
and some children dress better than others.
Help me to see past the outward appearance,
and to focus on the bright spirit on the inside.

If we don’t do what is necessary to help reduce the numbers of children who are homeless, it is us who will eventually be held accountable for the dimming of their spirits.

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Comments
  1. AnAmerican says:

    Our country is only as great as the collective consciousness that we embrace. May we all find a way to elevate each and everyone in our communities~and always, always realize that our children are our future. May we set an example of the power of compassion and love for each other.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely work by your friend!

  2. Skye says:

    These statistics are heartbreaking. The poor children.

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