By the time I’d written my first blog post roughly 19 months ago, I had been already doing quite a bit of research into homelessness. There were two reasons behind that research: the numbers of children I’d seen at the local homeless shelter; and the death of a friend of mine. He passed away in his sleep, in the early hours of Easter morning of 2006, at the homeless shelter due to complications of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD).
It bothered me that there were so many children who were homeless living at the shelter with their parents. Quite a number of them were pre-schoolers. I also seem to recall that there were a few who were still in baby strollers. It was beyond my comprehension how we, as a community, were not outraged over this; how we weren’t clamoring at our community leadership that something needed to be done straightaway to help this folks.
I was able to understand how we might be reluctant to provide help for the stereotypical homeless person who is a "fall down drunk" but, to ignore the needs of homeless children seemed – and still seems to me – unconscionable. Even, if we were to look at their parents and hold them accountable for their own homelessness, the children themselves were certainly blameless for their current living conditions. That in itself seemed to me to be reason enough to seek a viable way of addressing their needs.
But because we seem willing to turn a blind eye to their plight, there will be approximately 1.35 million children who will have experienced homelessness this year.
I’m sure that there are folks who would think that turning those children over to child protective services would be the solution. I would disagree with that as being a rational solution for numerous reasons.
First, not all families who find themselves homeless do so because of any fault of their own. Second, child protective services is not exactly a step up from being in a homeless shelter with their parents. Third, placing removing those children from their parents would be akin to punishing the children themselves. Then of course, the courts have already ruled that homelessness is not sufficient legal reason to take a child away from their parents because it doesn’t constitute abusive behavior on the parents’ part.
The death of my friend hit me hard. He was in his sixties. He died in his sleep of a progressive respiratory disease. He was polite, kind and compassionate. He was, in the truest sense of the word, a gentleman.
To many he may have been just another homeless person; just one of millions of nameless persons living on the streets of our nation; just another statistic. To me he was a friend. He was also a Veteran.
He had served this country with honor and dignity. But, there was nothing honorable or dignified about his death at that homeless shelter. He had been discarded by the very society he had served to protect.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Homeless Veterans,
Approximately 40% of homeless men are veterans, although veterans comprise only 34% of the general adult male population. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans estimates that on any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless, and 400,000 veterans will experience homelessness during the course of a year.
Consider this: according to the White House Office of Management and Budget, for Fiscal Year 2009, NASA will receive a budget of slightly over $18 billion to explore space. Personally I think it’s a waste of money. We can’t even take care of things here on planet Earth and we’re worried about what’s out in the vast regions of space? Not a wise use of taxpayer’s dollars as far as I’m concerned.
Of course, since the White House has no problems spending that amount of money exploring space, you would think that they would spend a sizable amount trying to help homeless Veteran’s, right?
Only $158 million will be spent trying to provide assistance to our nation’s homeless Veterans.
The Coalition for the Homeless fact sheet, Military Spending vs. Affordable Housing and Veteran’s Affairs Spending, puts it this way,
For the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the President has a budget of $91 billion for FY 2009. The Department of Veterans Affairs also boasts that its homeless assistance programs constitute the largest integrated network of services in the United States. Strikingly, the Veterans’ Affairs budget only allocates $158 million dollars to support this network.
Apparently, trying to find E.T. is a larger priority to this country’s bureaucrats than providing assistance to those who have served this nation militarily and now find themselves without a place to call home.
I think about the current economic climate in this nation. There are families who are right on the verge of becoming homeless. They’re pinching pennies to try and make ends meet. They’re spending their money on only the necessities of life. They live their lives on a strict budget. They have to if they want to avoid the streets. Yet, some of them, despite their best efforts, may still find themselves homeless.
In the meanwhile, our nation’s leaders are spending taxpayer’s dollars at an obscene rate – and on things which do not improve the quality of life for those who are struggling to survive. As a result, tonight there will be who knows how many thousands of children and Veterans who will go hungry and sleep with no roof over their heads.
Of course, our nation’s politicians will have been well fed and end up all snuggled up in their beds sleeping like babies. And, come tomorrow, they will be back to playing their political games.