More and more lately, I keep thinking about all of this nation’s homeless children. I’m sure it has something to do with the onset of the holiday season. First there will be Thanksgiving Day, then Christmas Day and finally New Year’s Day. While, I’m sure that most adults will enjoy the holidays, for children the holidays are a special time – or at least they should be.
Most children in this nation will have a relatively nice set of holidays – even those children who live in the most humble of homes. For America’s homeless children, however, their holidays will be spent pretty much the way the rest of their year is: with no place to call home; no place to invite their friends and classmates over to; no place to be a child.
For housed children, there are numerous activities they can engage in after school. They can change clothes; take off their shoes and socks; watch TV; lie down on their beds and take a nap; turn on their home computers and surf the internet – and even something as simple as reach into the refrigerator or cupboards for a snack. All in all, they get some opportunity to be children.
For those of America’s children who are homeless, no such options are available. They will not have the freedom to have a respite from their day. They will go from their school to some public location in the community, awaiting the approach of evening, when their parents head to the local homeless shelter to get something to eat, and hopefully a bed for the night. There are no true moments of relaxation for these children.
Homelessness is a stressful life, even for adults. For children however – and despite their natural resiliency – I imagine that homelessness induces psychological and emotional traumas that are carried over into adulthood. Moreover, I’m sure these traumas deepen the longer they remain homeless.
It’s easy to tell ourselves that with time these children will forget the stresses and memories of having been homeless; that they will eventually recover from the trauma. But is that truly the case? Or, will these children be irrevocably consigned to a dysfunctional life as adults? And won’t we, as a society, be to blame because we did nothing to help these children?
It may be perhaps understandable for us to believe that an adult is to blame for their own homelessness. In some instances they are indeed responsible. However, I can’t imagine anyone pointing a finger at a homeless child and accusing them of having caused their own homelessness. Even if we were to blame the parents for the children being homeless, does that release us from our obligation of seeking effective and viable ways of providing proper assistance to ensure that no child in our nation goes hungry or without a bed to sleep in?
But, pointing fingers and playing the blame game isn’t something we should be doing. There is certainly enough blame to go around. Rather, we should be focusing on addressing the issue. We should be working diligently toward finding solutions that will allow each of our nation’s homeless children the opportunity for a better future.
This holiday season, as we go about readying ourselves for the festivities; practicing our “good will toward all men,” it might be a good thing to keep in mind that there are over one million homeless children who need more than the standard fare they will be getting from this nation’s homeless shelters. They need for us to take an active interest in finding solutions to their plight. They need more than just government studies and council meetings. They need more than just citizen groups going through the motions.
They need for us to intervene in their lives with more than just kind words and good intentions.