A Lifetime Of Poverty

Posted: March 14, 2009 in Bureauacracy, Children, Family, Government, Homelessness, Housing, Morality, Poverty

President Obama’s address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce this past Tuesday regarding the need for education reform was eclipsed by the National Center of Family Homelessness’s (NCFH) press release that 1 in 50 Children Endure Homelessness.

According to the USA Today article, Obama urges education reform, the President told the group that "The challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom"  

What captured my attention the most about the article were these two sentences:

Obama tied education reform to addressing the economic crisis, saying a better educated workforce will enhance the nation’s long-term prosperity.

"Education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite," Obama said.

Education has always been seen as the method by which people could advance in life: the great equalizer – as it were.

That President Obama just happened to be giving an address about the importance of quality education and the need for reform within the educational system, coupled with the release of the NCFH’s report America’s Youngest Outcasts, seemed to me somewhat of an ironic coincidence.

Here’s why…

In the section of the NCFH’s report titled, Child Well Being: Education, it says the following:

What We Know from the Report Card:

  • Proficiency rates for homeless children in reading and math fall on average 16% lower than the scores for all students.
  • Less than one in four homeless children graduates from high school.

I found those numbers rather disturbing.

As difficult as it can be – even for persons with a higher education – to find a job; for someone without even a high school diploma, the potential of finding gainful employment is virtually zero.

Studies have already shown that children require a stable living environment in order to succeed in school. This places homeless children at a severe disadvantage.

According to the National Coalition for the Homeless Fact Sheet, Education of Homeless Children and Youth:

"Homelessness has a devastating impact on homeless children and youth’s educational opportunities. Residency requirements, guardianship requirements, delays in transfer of school records, lack of transportation, and lack of immunization records often prevent homeless children from enrolling in school.

. . . .

In addition to enrollment problems, the high mobility associated with homelessness has severe educational consequences. Homeless families move frequently due to limits on length of shelter stays, search for safe and affordable housing or employment, or to escape abusive partners. All too often, homeless children have to change schools because shelters or other temporary accommodations are not located in their school district. In recent years, 42% of homeless children transferred schools at least once, and 51% of these students transferred twice or more"

This is where the promised potentials of the many 10-year plans to end homelessness which are popping up throughout the country should come into play.

These plans are based on a "housing first" premise. The basic theory is to first provide stable housing to the homeless, then go about getting them the additional resources necessary to help them become as self-sufficient as possible.

In cities which have already implemented their plans, they have been shown to have roughly an 85% success rate. The drawback is that they target only the "chronically homeless." Consequently, due to the definition of chronic homelessness – as outlined by HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) – families with dependant children are excluded from receiving assistance through these programs.

Given its potential to reduce homelessness, you would think that all that was needed would be to expand the program to include homeless families, right? After all, helping a family become housed would create a stabilized living situation for the children, which in turn would give them a chance at receiving a decent education. And, that would be a good thing; something of which we could be proud of as a nation.

However, as is common with bureaucrats – who seem to enjoy needlessly complicating things – nothing is simple.

Let me explain.

There have been several attempts by various members of Congress to amend and expand the scope of the "housing first initiative." In fact, resolutions have been written and sent to committees for review. Some of those resolutions have been passed in the House of Representatives. Some have been passed in the Senate. But none have been passed by both in the same Congressional sessions.

The reason?

They’ve been forestalled and lobbied against – and by one of the most unlikely of people: Mr. Philip Mangano, director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.

Mr. Mangano has been busy going to and fro throughout the country promoting the importance of "housing first" as a viable remedy for ending homelessness. Yet, he has repeatedly resisted any attempt by Congress to expand the scope of 10-year plans to include anyone other than the chronic homeless.

President Obama is absolutely correct in his assessment that: "Education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite"

For our nation’s homeless children, a quality education may be the only opportunity they have to pursue the American Dream.

Unfortunately, as long as Mr. Mangano and those like him have their say, those children will have only a lifetime of poverty to look forward to.

  1. Justin says:

    “Education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity and success, it is a prerequisite” I agree as well. Been reading your blog for a while and I thank you for your insight.

  2. Skye says:

    I worry that we’re facing another generation more illiterate than the current generation. We have programs in place for all kinds of disadvantaged children, but our homeless kids are falling through the cracks.

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